Laguna Beach smoking ban approved with support from student advocates

Smoking in any public place in the city of Laguna Beach will soon be illegal thanks in part to a group of Laguna Beach High School students.

Jessica Berk, Makayla Klug, Curran Hendrickson and Catrin Williams each spoke before the City Council last month as council members considered a ban on smoking pretty much anywhere except in private homes or cars.

Students from Laguna Beach High School worked through their campus’ Peer Assistance Leadership program to advocate on behalf of a citywide smoking ban. The Laguna Beach City Council voted 4-1 to approve the ordinance on May 23.

Officials eventually voted 4-1 to approve the smoking ban, which will take effect June 22. Before the vote, local students told the council that in addition to causing health problems, public smoking also harms the environment.

“Cancer is really common in my family, and being around secondhand smoke stresses us out because we try to stay away from things that are unhealthy and may cause cancer,” Berk said.

Hendrickson added, “I support this ordinance because people just throw the cigarette butts on the ground and most of them wash into the ocean, which destroys the environment.”

The students worked with Laguna Beach High PAL Peer Assistance Leadership teacher Mindy Hawkins and health science teacher Samantha Hawkins to prepare their statements prior to the May 9 City Council meeting, which was followed by a second reading and adoption of the ordinance on May 23. The students also received coaching and support from Ravi Choudhuri and Nancy Segovia of the American Lung Association and Ryan Crowdis from the OCDE Tobacco-Use Prevention Education program, or TUPE.

The sessions covered various topics related to tobacco use, including how tobacco products impact people and the environment, how this specific ordinance would impact the Laguna Beach community, and how to voice their support of the ordinance to City Council members.

“For my family, the one day a month we get to spend lunch with my grandma at her favorite restaurant is ruined when the smoke from the nearby bus stop blows directly into the restaurant,” Williams told council members.

In California, 70 cities have adopted some sort of outdoor smoking ban, according to the Orange County Register. Manhattan Beach passed a citywide ban in 2014 and Calabasas did so in 2008.