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Claremont encourages smokers to pack up their cigarettes

Tree City USA won’t be the only sign welcoming folks into Claremont. A new notice is being added to the city’s roadways in coming months with a clear message: Thank you for not smoking.

The Claremont City Council Tuesday night approved a resolution 4-1 encouraging a smoke-free environment in the city of Claremont. Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali was the sole dissenting vote.

As part of the program—geared at educating people about the effects of smoking, not restricting the act itself—ten 12-by-16-inch signs will be added to key areas in the city. Sixty-four 4-by-6-inch signs will also be posted on existing light poles throughout the Claremont Village.

The resolution represented a fair compromise for the council, which has been split on passing rules on smoking in the past.

“This is a compromise,” said Councilmember Sam Pedroza, in favor of the “smoke-free environment” concept. “It’s encouraging, it’s educational.”

The city will allot $2000 from the General Fund’s unassigned fund balance for signage and marketing. In addition, businesses will be able to obtain signs and table tents, which will initially be given free of charge as a way to promote the cause.

The proposed resolution encouraging a Smoke Free Environment comes nearly 4 years after Claremont established its first ordinance prohibiting smoking in certain areas of town. In October 2008, the city council banned smoking in city parks. That ordinance was expanded in December 2010 to include the Plaza, located off Indian Hill Boulevard and First Street in front of the Laemmle Theater.

No laws or ordinances are put on the books with the signage program, so residents and visitors who opt to smoke are not breaking the law. The resolution was brought forward as a compromise by the group Coalition for Clean Air Claremont, of which several members were present to speak at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“This resolution is really not a radical idea,” said Maya Walker of the Coalition for Clean Air Claremont. “What we have today is really an encouragement...it’s voluntary. The signs are a clear example that the city of Claremont is indeed committed to protecting its citizens.”

Though most spoke in favor of the new policy, some were concerned about the sign being misinterpreted. Claremont resident Edith Richardson said it comes across as a sign prohibiting smoking.

“I think it will maybe reverse the effect we want,” she said, encouraging a softer approach. “Maybe say ‘We are looking for a healthy community and we encourage you not to smoke,’ or ‘We thank you not to smoke.’ The encouragement should be emphasized.”

Mr. Nasiali is concerned that the signs might be misleading.

“I’m not very comfortable spending $2000 to buy signs that could be confusing,” he said, specifically referring to the sign’s symbol—a cigarette crossed out with a red line. To Mr. Nasiali, it looks like “a prohibition” instead of a recommendation.

The rest of the council felt otherwise, opting to support what Councilmember Corey Calaycay and others expressed as a fair settlement on an issue that has sparked much council debate in the past.

“My big issue is always trying to mandate these things. What this compromise represents tonight, which is huge for me, is we are no longer mandating it, we are encouraging it, and from that standpoint I can support it,” Mr. Calaycay said. “I think we have found peace on this issue tonight.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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