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Proposed tobacco ban at fair fails

Also, new policy will require contractors comply with state labor laws and that most workers will be trained in State of California Apprenticeship programs.

September 28, 2012|By Jill Cowan

Discussion of a proposed ban on the sale of tobacco and smoking products at the Orange County Fairgrounds took a philosophical turn Thursday at the Fair Board's monthly meeting, where the idea was voted down.

Speakers and, later, board members questioned the logic behind banning cigars and hookahs at a place where visitors can drink beer and eat deep-fried Twinkies.

"Why not ban sales of beef jerky?" asked Theresa Sears, a member of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society.

"If hookah pipes are drug paraphernalia, then what about beer bottles?" asked Brad Garner, an Orange County resident who likened fair vendor Mike Robbins' cigar stand to his version of Cheers. "I think it's so sad to see democracy gone wrong."

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Many of the vendors and local residents who spoke against the proposal had come to the meeting to support Robbins, whose business, Paradise Cigar, would have been effectively shut down if the ban had passed.

Some claimed that barring the sale of smoking products would have been a personal dig at Robbins, who was critical of board member Dave Ellis' efforts to buy the fairgrounds in 2009.

Ellis said the ban would have helped the fair and swap meet's branding as family-friendly events. The fairgrounds commercial handbook allows the board to ban items, "objectionable from the standpoint of taste, quality or compatibility with the O.C. Fair." Switch blades, pornographic items and toy guns are already prohibited.

"I don't want it known as the hookah fair, the bong fair or the weed fair," he said. "I want it known as the family fair."

Board member Joyce Tucker said that she supported the ban because she is "an avid proponent of banning smoking in public places" to eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke.

But board member Ashleigh Aitken said that banning the sale of tobacco products may not be the best solution to a second-hand smoke problem.

"I was an advocate of making the children's area smoke-free," she said. "I would look at designated smoking areas."

In the final vote on the matter, most board members agreed to table the ban, but with the caveat that O.C. Fair & Event Center Chief Executive Jerome Hoban work with individual vendors to potentially phase out or limit the sale of potential drug paraphernalia, like bongs.

Robbins said he wasn't opposed to that possibility because bongs "are tall, and they're glass. They're fragile."

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