Irvine to Enact Stricter Smoking Regulations

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

A no smoking sign outside of Ranch Market in Irvine.

The city of Irvine is proposing banning smoking products in public places, becoming the third city in Orange County to implement a blanket ban.

California also recently passed legislation that bans smoking and vaping at state parks and beaches. In Orange County only two other cities — Laguna Beach and Dana Point — go further than the Irvine ban by prohibiting smoking in all public places.

Irvine’s expanded restrictions – the first in more than a dozen years – would block residents from smoking nearly anywhere besides their private residence, with the addition of streets, parking lots, common rooms, businesses and bike paths as nonsmoking areas.

The ordinance was brought forth by a joint request from Councilwoman Farrah Khan and Mayor Pro Tempore Anthony Kuo.

“When I sat with the City Attorney, we saw the current regulation was lacking the substance needed today, especially with lots in the news about smoking, and all the data we have now about second-hand smoke is tremendous,” said Khan, who was elected to the City Council in 2018.

There have been about 1,500 lung injury cases and 33 deaths from e-cigarette use as of Oct. 15 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This caused the FDA to issue a public warning of the usage of vaping products that include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a psychoactive component of marijuana.

The ordinance was originally going to be discussed Oct. 10, but was pushed to tomorrow’s city council meeting after members of the Chamber of Commerce raised concerns about the specific wording of the bill, Kuo said. 

Kuo said that the concerns were over what was considered public and private property in the ordinance and where the policies would be enforced at.

The new policy would require that all locations that fall under the city’s new guidelines post no-smoking signs at primary entrances. All businesses would be required to have the signs and may be inspected for them.

However, the smoking ban isn’t envisioned to be enforced by police officers according to Khan. 

“This ordinance isn’t meant for (the police) to go out and police people, we’re really hoping that people will be self-regulating themselves when it comes to smoking,” Khan said. “We do have fines in place…but the goal isn’t to have police looking out for people, but educating the community.”

The Oct. 22 meeting will be the first reading of the bill, but it could be made law as soon as late November according to Khan.

In 2019, the city of Irvine was given an “F” rating by the American Lung Association according to the Council’s staff report.

The city’s smoking regulations were last updated in 2007, and currently do not include rules on vaping and e-cigarettes. Public areas such as parks and other areas are the only non-smoking areas according to Khan.

“It does not include our sidewalks, it does not include common areas in condominiums and apartments and things like that,” Khan said. “So, with this new ordinance, basically we’re doing an overall coverage of public areas, but still giving private owners the ability to smoke in their private homes and facilities.”

“A few people were concerned we were taking away smoking rights,” Khan said. “It’s not about taking their rights, but making sure they are responsible about it. We want to make sure we’re making a healthy environment.”

Other cities such as Dana Point and Santa Ana received “C” ratings for their current tobacco restrictions, which would be where Irvine would sit if the proposal passes.

The new restrictions proposed by Khan and Kuo also aim to protect city residents from second-hand smoke according to the staff report.

“We’re a city focused on maintaining our quality of life, and one of the components of that is having clean air,” Khan said. “I thought it was important for us as one of the largest cities in Orange County to set forward and do something for the benefit of our residents and those who come into our city.”