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San Diego County Fair to go smoke-free in 2013

DEL MAR — Visitors to the 2013 San Diego County Fair may find the annual event is a breath of fresh air. 

The board of directors for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds, agreed at the May 8 meeting to prohibit smoking beginning next year, 12 months earlier than originally planned.

As discussed, the ban would not apply to any of the other 300-plus events held at the approximately 340-acre site, including the annual horse races. Fairgoers who need to light up during the fair will be allowed to do so only in designated areas outside the gates but far from the entrance.

For years, residents from throughout the county and representatives from organizations such as the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth have attended the board’s monthly meetings.

They have presented facts and handed out literature documenting the harmful effects of smoking or shared stories of their children inhaling second-hand smoke.

A committee of residents, fair staff and representatives from anti-smoking organizations was formed to create ways to reduce smoking. A few years ago fair officials began implementing smoking restrictions, with long-term plans to eventually ban the behavior.

There were six designated smoking areas in 2010. Those were reduced by one last year and only four are planned for the upcoming fair that begins June 8.

As in the past few years, there will be anti-smoking messages in the program and on the Paddock video board. Hypnotist Mark Yuzuik will again hold three one-hour smoking cessation seminars at 3 p.m. on Thursdays during the fair.

Meeting attendees have applauded the board for those actions but continued to ask for a smoke-free event.

At the April meeting Tim Fennell, fairgrounds manager, said the goal was to make that happen in 2014. He said the more than 1,000 subcontractors and vendors who work at the annual event present the greatest challenge.

Director David Watson disagreed. “I just don’t see it being that difficult to implement,” he said.

Judi Strang, executive director of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, highlighted a report from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids that included research done by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris.

It notes that in a smoke-free workplace, consumption is reduced by up to 15 percent and the quit rate is 84 percent higher than average.

If smoking was banned in all workplaces the quit rate would increase 74 percent, the report states.

Watson said if an all-out ban can’t be accomplished within a year the board could revisit the issue and possibly grant an extension.

“We all agree smoking is bad and shouldn’t occur,” he said.