Woman speaks to the City Council
Dawn Dunn, program administrator for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, speaks to the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday about the importance of educating the public on the dangers of smoking. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Smoking in public in the city of Santa Barbara is about to get a lot more difficult.

Santa Barbara was awarded an $878,000 grant from the California Department of Justice to fund new anti-smoking signage, public education outreach and enforcement activities from June 1, 2018, to June 30, 2020.

Santa Barbara designated itself a smoke-free city in 2017

The money will also help pay for additional police officer staffing to patrol the downtown and provide new downtown ambassadors to help with enforcement.

Currently, two downtown ambassadors work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. The funding will allow the city to hire two more employees, who will work from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

The grant will also fund an additional 24 hours of time for a police officer to patrol downtown. 

“I am excited because this is putting extra people on the ground,” said Councilman Randy Rowse. 

The city plans to install 180 signs around town, including in the Funk Zone, “a sign within eyeshot,” said Nina Johnson, assistant to the city administrator.

The city plans to replace some of the existing “no skateboarding” signs with the new anti-smoking signs.

The grant will pay for the fabrication and installation of signage in parks, beaches, sidewalks in commercial areas, and city-owned parking structures and lots. Money will also pay for a marketing campaign, bilingual videos and announcements aired via radio, movie theater previews, and social media. 

In Santa Barbara, smoking is prohibited at beaches, parks, sports fields, open spaces and trails, sidewalks and paseos citywide in commercial and residential areas, city parking structures and lots, Stearns Wharf, outdoor restaurant patios before 10 p.m., outdoor recreational areas and sports facilities, community centers, and library plazas and events open to the public.

Smoking is defined to include tobacco, marijuana, and electronic vaping devices.

Councilman Eric Friedman said cigarette butts are a huge problem in Santa Barbara. When he and his two children participate in beach cleanups, “every year we find 100 in just about an hour,” Friedman said. 

Several of the council members praised Johnson, who wrote the five-page grant application at the last-minute to secure the funding. She was informed of the grant opportunity by Dawn Dunn, program administrator for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon agreed that the grant will be helpful to address many issues on State Street. 

“I am happy to see there are a lot of nuisance issues being addressed downtown,” Sneddon said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.