Buena Park residents can look forward to the possibility of breathing more smoke-free air, pending final approval of an amendment to the municipal code that would ban smoking of tobacco products in outdoor dining, multi-unit residential developments and public areas, such as sidewalks.

City officials expect to consider the amendment in June, potentially going into effect by July. 

Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Collegiate News Service, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Collegiate News Service Editor Vik Jolly at vjolly@voiceofoc.org.

The city is, however, implementing a six-month awareness campaign during which violators will not incur fines or punishment. After that, the enforcement process will be complaint-driven, and violators will be subject to fines, according to a city agenda report.

The standard administrative citation incurs a fine of $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second, and $500 for any subsequent violations. 

Some other Orange County cities have enacted blanket smoking bans, including Laguna Beach and Dana Point. Irvine expanded restrictions in 2019, banning smoking in any indoor or outdoor public place publicly or privately owned

Buena Park already prohibits smoking within city-owned public areas and recreational areas, except within designated smoking areas. 

The topic of an expansion of where smoking should be prohibited was calendared for discussion for the third time at a City Council meeting in late March, where officials were presented with three options as guidelines for the non-smoking measure. 

All 18 speakers during the meeting’s public comment portion advocated for the City Council to choose option one, which proposed a near-total ban.

Councilmember Joyce Ahn and Mayor Art Brown both opposed the first option and a total ban.

In an interview following the meeting, Brown said, “People still have their rights and I think if people want to smoke and endanger their life, that’s their decision.”  

After hearing more than 45 minutes of public comment from Buena Park residents and supporters of the ban, the City Council voted unanimously to move forward with an amendment that combined options two and three. The end result would be a ban on smoking in public spaces, outdoor dining areas, construction sites, and multi-unit residential developments while placing “buffer zones” of 50 feet and carving out additional places where smoking will still be allowed.

Councilmember Jose Trinidad Castaneda, who calendared the study session, said that his initial intention was to support the community and residents’ advocacy for option one, however, Councilmember Ahn’s input gave him pause to consider how difficult the enforcement would be on a total ban. 

“Fortune favors the bold, and I am always positioning that we should take a bold approach to difficult and complex problems, but solving this problem also includes ensuring that our mayor and our full council have all the information and understanding that we need to make an informed decision,” Castaneda said.

[Read: Buena Park Officials Expected to Study Allowing Cannabis Shops]

Angelica Bustamente, a mother of three who has lived in Buena Park for seven years, said in an interview that she fully supports the additional smoking restrictions in the city.

“Of course, I think it’s great. Smoking isn’t healthy. Not for kids, not for anyone,” Bustamante said, “there are some people who do respect other’s personal space but there are many who don’t.”  

Castaneda also said he believes it will be challenging to prevent harm from tobacco smoke just 50 feet away from a window or doorway entry. 

“We’re proposing a cultural shift for the city of Buena Park around tobacco smoke and smoking in general, but I believe that our full council will come to a consensus on the very real dangers of tobacco smoke at any point within the city,” Castaneda said. 

Longtime Buena Park resident Myra Diaz said in an interview she agrees with the City Council’s decision, especially for apartments with kids. Diaz also said that she is okay with the fact that council members did not opt for a total ban that would prohibit smoking in almost all areas of the city.

“I think it would be okay. I mean if you’re not okay with it, either move away from where it is or try to avoid the area in the meantime. People can do as they please if they’re out in the public,” Diaz said. 

The mother of three said that she doesn’t have a strong opinion on the council placing a total ban on smoking in the future.

“If they do it, fine. If they don’t, it’s fine too,” she said.

Mayor Brown said the six-month awareness campaign on the ban’s enforcement will give residents a chance to get used to the new rule.


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