ATASCADERO — According to Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley, the City’s new rules regarding public smoking are having a positive effect.
“We certainly were concerned in a couple of areas where we were having some problems,” Haley said during a City Council meeting Jan. 14. “But I’m happy to report that things seem to be going well. I’ve only been able to locate one call for service in the past several months in the area of Atascadero Avenue.”
In September of 2019, the City of Atascadero updated it’s public smoking ordinance to ban smoking and vaping in the downtown area, along El Camino Real, Morro Road and Atascadero Avenue and in many other public settings. They also moved to ban the possession of tobacco products by those under the age of 18 after the state of California changed its laws to allow minors to possess tobacco products.
“The effect of passing the ordinance has effectively ended the behaviors by and large, at least to our knowledge — at least people are not reporting them if they’re continuing — so that’s a dramatic improvement and we’re grateful for that,” Haley said.
Hayley said that the police had issued six smoking/vaping-related citations since the new rules went into effect, most of them to juveniles in possession of tobacco products in the downtown area, and most of them issued by himself personally.
“For a couple of months, we were having a problem with some juveniles who were engaging in some behaviors that were unsavory to say the least and disruptive to businesses in the area, so we did take enforcement actions in a couple of cases,” he said. “It seems to have been effective in clearing out the problems and remedying the situation for our business owners.”
Haley said that the smoking ban has been “an effective tool” in eliminating the “unsavory” behaviors happening downtown and the subsequent complaints from business owners and residents.
“It’s an effective tool and we’ve had good success with it and I think it was wise to implement,” he said.