Even if county officials give final approval to an outdoor smoking ban, players at several county-owned public courses could be exempt from the new rule, primarily out of concern for how denying golfers their cigarettes or cigars could affect revenues.
As officials in Ventura County, Calif., consider a proposed outdoor smoking ban, players at county-owned public golf courses could be exempted, the Ventura County Star reported. The exception would be made partly because of golf courses’ special open-space nature, according to the Star, but more so out of consideration for the revenue the courses generate for the county parks system.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved a rigorous ban on outdoor smoking in a preliminary vote on December 6, but three days later, two Board members filed a more lenient proposal, the Star reported, that would prohibit smoking outdoors at public events and at selected county-owned properties, as well as at outdoor dining areas, recreation areas including county-controlled beaches, parks and campgrounds, and service areas such as bus stops. The ban, which covers all tobacco products as well electronic smoking devices and marijuana, would also apply to patients at the Ventura County Medical Center, the Star reported.
Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas told the Star that Ventura County is catching up to about 100 California cities and counties that have adopted comprehensive laws to prevent exposure outdoors to second-hand smoke.
The issue is now scheduled to be heard again by the Board on December 13th, the Star reported.
The county-owned golf courses where the ban would not apply, the Star reported, include Soule Park Golf Course in Ojai, Calif. Saticoy Regional Golf Course in Ventura, Calif., and Rustic Canyon Golf Course in Moorpark, Calif.—properties that generated revenue of $207,000 for the county in the last fiscal year, according to Ron Van Dyck, who oversees the county park system.
That money keeps the park system afloat financially and supports other parks that lose money, Van Dyck noted. “Our operating budget is $3.5 million, but we run right on the edge,” he said.
Van Dyck also noted that it is common for golf courses to allow smoking even in cities with outdoor smoking bans, because it is part of the culture of the sport.
Operators of the 18-hole Soule Park course told the Star that perhaps half of their customers smoke. Players Tim Sands and Dave Bash, both smokers, agreed that golf courses should get a pass.
“I don’t think we’re infringing on anybody,” Bash said during a recent round.
Sands and Bash, both retired police officers, told the Star that they would probably consider going elsewhere to golf if Ventura County extended enforcement of the smoking ban to golf courses.
Terry Young, an attendant in the pro shop at Soule Park, told the Star that non-smokers don’t complain, though they may request a separate cart from friends that smoke.
Tom York, the owner of the company that manages the course, also told the Star he wasn’t sure how he could enforce a smoking ban on the course, even if he had to.
“People are out for four-and-a-half to five hours by themselves,” York said. “We don’t have anybody that would patrol that. It’s open air, and smokers are generally pretty decent about not blowing smoke in somebody’s face.”
Some non-smokers have expressed support for extending the ban to include golf courses, the Star reported, citing the ashes and butts that are left behind, and the high fire danger in the area.
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