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February 28, 2024

San Juan eyes first local smoking ban for outdoor dining areas

San Juan Bautista City Council members took the first step this week toward possibly becoming the first jurisdiction in the county to approve an outdoor smoke-free dining law.

San Juan council members Tuesday heard a presentation from San Benito County Public Health Services on the proposal for an ordinance. Council members had consensus in directing city staff to return at next month’s meeting with a proposed ordinance.

That came after county public health employees, including Public Health Officer Gail Newel, made the case for such a ban against smoking in outdoor dining areas. They mentioned how 151 jurisdictions throughout California that have a similar outdoor smoke-free dining policy, including the city and county of Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Monterey.

Newel noted how second-hand smoke cases lung cancer and heart disease and has led to the death of 2.5 million Americans since the mid-1950s.

“There’s no question that smoke-free laws of any kind, including outdoor dining as you’re considering, helps protect restaurant patrons, and perhaps more importantly, restaurant employees who have direct and constant exposure to the harms of second-hand smoke when smoking is allowed in outdoor dining areas,” Newel said.

She acknowledged the only reason one might vote against such a proposal is economics, but contended there’s overwhelming evidence that policies elsewhere have not had a negative economic impact. Public health staff also pointed out how bars and cigar shops would be exempt from the law.

Council members heard from two members of the public, including a mother of a 17-month-old who said her family at times feels like it can’t go out to local restaurants due to second-hand smoke and the manager of Jardines de San Juan restaurant who advocated for the law.

Not having a ban against smoking in outdoor dining areas has left employees in a tough spot when asking smokers to go elsewhere to smoke, Jardines G.M. Marcus Edwards said. He said an ordinance would help their effort to keep the outdoor areas there smoke free.

“It would be nice to have some signs around town,” he said.

Council members finished by directing staff to return with a proposed ordinance.