Lighting up a cigarette right outside restaurants and bars may soon be a thing of the past in Claremont after the City Council favored new smoking restrictions on Monday, Nov 11.

With a 4-1 vote, the council introduced an ordinance that would ban smoking in and within 20 feet of restaurants, bars, and other drinking establishments, which includes outdoor patios and parklets. Smoking tobacco and cannabis cigarettes, use of e-cigarettes and vaping all would be prohibited.

The proposed ordinance would be enforced by administrative citations that would begin at $100 and, after a third citation within the same year, go up to $500. New sign templates are to be given to restaurants and bars to place on their businesses specifying that smoking is not allowed. All restaurants with outdoor dining areas must also place no smoking signs nearby, according to a city staff report.

Meanwhile, the city plans to keep its current “no smoking” signs around the Claremont Village area and place them in a more visible location until new signs are finalized. There are also plans to add both prohibition of vaping and cannabis language to the city’s current smoke-free resolution at the council’s next meeting on Nov. 24.

Mayor Larry Schroeder said the ordinance is a step in the right direction. Having previously spoken with restaurant owners, he said, they have shared stories about people smoking near their businesses.

“This is a health reason and I think one of our responsibilities as a City Council is to push for the health and safety of our community,” Schroeder said at the meeting. “I think this needs to be passed.”

The ordinance would expand on the city’s current smoking regulations, which prohibit smoking in public parks and plazas. In 2010, the city considered a similar ban of such activities outside dining establishments and in hotel common areas but did not move forward with it. Two years later, the council approved a resolution that only encouraged a “smoke-free environment” in Claremont.

Smoke-Free Claremont, a local organization, brought the topic back to the City Council in September. The city has since met with representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to get feedback on pursuing additional smoking bans.

The city sent surveys to local business owners to get their say on the proposed ordinance. Out of 49 responses received, 43 wrote that they would be in favor of a smoking ban in and around outdoor eating areas in Claremont, a city report read.

Councilmember Corey Calaycay was the sole official against the ordinance. He questioned whether the citations allowed under the expanded ban would put more pressure on police after saying that compliance with smoking laws has been a non-issue in the city.

“We’re setting ourselves up for failure, in my opinion,” Calaycay said. “People do adhere to this when you have a sign, why do we have to drag police into it.”

Councilmember Jennifer Stark said smoking in public affects the community as a whole. She noted the council approved a mask ordinance in August to combat spread of the coronavirus, and said part of representing Claremont residents means making tough decisions with them in mind.

“We have heard from our community and they want us to prioritize health,” Stark said on Tuesday. “We have established precedent this year about how important health is to our community and how it is important to our directive of making sure that Claremont is a healthy and safe place to live, work, play and shop. We are doing that.”

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