DEL MAR — When the 2011 San Diego County Fair opens next month, visitors may find it’s a breath of fresh air compared to previous years.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors instructed staff at the May 10 meeting to look into decreasing the number of designated smoking areas and prohibiting minors in beer gardens where smoking is allowed.
The board, which manages the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds that is home to the annual event, formed a committee to create ways to reduce smoking. Recommendations included anti-smoking messages in the program and on the paddock video board, two one-hour smoking cessation seminars by hypnotist Mark Yuzuik and anti-smoking information in the main exhibit hall.
Cards with maps pointing out designated smoking areas will be distributed, and fair workers will be better trained to deal with people smoking outside those areas. However, the number of designated smoking areas remained at six, the same as last year.
Area resident Tom Hetherington, who attended the committee meetings, was very disappointed with the results, “but not to the point where I’m going to give up,” he said.
“I wanted to see fewer smoking areas and no beer gardens that allow minors where there is smoking, especially because of the message it sends to young people,” Hetherington said. “But I’m still going to work with you to see a smoke-free fair.”
Tim Fennell, fairgrounds general manager, called the plan to reduce or eliminate smoking during the fair a “work in progress.”
He said he was concerned people would leave their children to find a place to have a cigarette.
Fennell also said the size of the site makes it difficult to limit smoking to a few areas. “If you make it so inconvenient, people will find a way to smoke,” he said.
Dean Scott, a North County resident, disagreed. “If Disneyland can have three smoking areas, there’s no reason the Del Mar Fairgrounds can’t have less than three,” he said.
“We need to make more progress,” board member Adam Day said after the public weighed in. “I’d like to see us go further before the fair starts.” Day also said he didn’t think minors should be allowed in beer gardens at all.
“I agree with Adam,” Barry Nussbaum, board president, said. “I don’t want to restrict beer sales but we don’t need kids near people who are smoking and drinking.”
Mark Anderson from Premier Foods said beer gardens are also considered picnic areas, but only two allow smoking.
At the end of the discussion, board members directed staff to possibly decrease the number of designated smoking areas by two, which would be a 25 percent reduction, and find ways to prohibit minors in beer gardens where smoking is allowed.
Board members said they would like to take action on those changes at the next meeting, which is scheduled four days after the fair opens June 10.