La Palma’s attempt to ban tobacco, even chewing tobacco, from its Central Park turned into a City Council debate Tuesday over what its citizens actually want when it comes to public smoking bans.

The night began with council members considering an outright ban of all tobacco products in the park. But they were swayed by a survey showing that 72 percent of residents support designated smoking areas.

In the end, council members, wanting to make sure they were abiding by the will of the people, voted, 4-1, for a proposal for designated smoking areas to be presented at the council’s Oct. 5 meeting.

“You do want to see restriction in the park, but you want to see some designated island of smokers,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Rodriguez.

Councilman Mark Waldman pushed back at the idea of a total ban, and said there might still be some confusion over what exactly the people of La Palma want in their smoking ban. He wants to put forth another survey or hold a town hall meeting, this time with the clear question of banning tobacco from the park.

“Until we know what our residents wish for, it’s too much of an infringement of personal freedom for me to be comfortable with,” Waldman said. “Anytime you really relinquish personal liberty to the point where you can’t do it [smoking] at all, I guess it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Rodriguez, however, said that although the survey might not have been clear on whether residents want a total ban, it is clear that they want something done.

“While the question was not posed during the survey in exactly the manner of banning smoking in the park … I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, especially when this first came up, with parents wondering what the heck we were waiting for,” Rodriguez said.

If the proposal passes in October, City Manager Dominic Lazzarro said that the code is going to be difficult to enforce.

The council noted that it’s going to be a low-level priority for police and are going to rely on community center staffers who work at the park to enforce it or call the police when someone refuses to comply.

Lazzarro said that chewing tobacco is written in the code because of the dip-filled containers people leave behind at the park. He’s not sure how this will affect e-cigarettes if the proposal passes, but notes that all tobacco and tobacco-related products are in the code.


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