CITY HALL — A publicity campaign aimed at educating Santa Monica residents and visitors on the city’s tough no-smoking laws has raised awareness about the rules, a City Hall report released last week said.
But while polling shows the $150,000 effort, which involved signs, posters and a flier blitz, was effective in educating tourists and visitors about the rules, it was less successful in getting the word out to Santa Monica residents.
“Man on the street” interviews conducted before and after the campaign that were targeted at tourists showed awareness about the ban on smoking in outdoor public spaces increased 17 percent, from 42 percent to 59 percent. A residential phone poll, though, showed the campaign resulted in just a 1 percent increase in awareness about the ban, from 76 percent to 77 percent.
The ban on smoking in outdoor public places such as the Third Street Promenade and restaurant patios has been in effect since 2006. The ban on smoking in common areas of residential buildings was approved last January.
City Council handed the contract for the smoking law awareness campaign to Santa Monica-based Southard Communications in May 2008 and in February last year approved of its “Smoking Doesn’t Belong Here” concept.
The campaign involved distributing signs, posters and brochures, as well as handing out 475 tool kits with fliers in multiple languages to retailers, restaurants, hotels, the Santa Monica Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. Street teams were also sent out to tourist areas to distribute information and there was a smoking ban-themed art contest for Grant Elementary students, with the winning entry displayed on the side of a Big Blue Bus.
City Councilwoman Gleam Davis asked that the report be presented at a future council meeting, in part, she said, because the council could consider additional smoking restrictions in the future. The council needs to know if the current ban has been effective, she said.
“Before we even [think] about extending the scope of our smoking ban … we need to make sure that the ban we’ve implemented for common areas [is] working the way we wanted it to,” she said. “It’s a good chance to just take a look and see, ‘Is it operating the way it’s supposed to?’”
She said the council has not been presented with a concrete proposal to enhance the smoking ban but noted that the Rent Control Board has discussed extending the ban on smoking to include private apartment patios and even apartment units themselves. The Rent Control Board’s attorney determined the board did not have the authority to create such a ban, but the council could enact such a law.
Davis said she did not have concerns about the cost of the publicity campaign and its effectiveness in publicizing the smoking laws.
“It has informed particularly tourists who might not be familiar with our laws,” she said.
City Councilman Kevin McKeown agreed that the publicity campaign was a needed step. Though some residents were upset the outdoor smoking ban wasn’t immediately enforced, he said, the publicity campaign appears to have helped boost compliance.
“The city chose to allow an education period before full enforcement, and the report indicates that educational process has been largely successful,” he said.
He said he’s asked city staff to update the council on how the smoking rules are being enforced now that the awareness campaign has been fully implemented. In December, the Santa Monica Police Department issued 26 citations for violating the smoking ban, said Sgt. Jay Trisler.
“If the council needs to allocate additional resources for effective enforcement, in the interest of public health I am prepared to support that,” McKeown said.
Kim Baker, director of marketing for the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she thought the campaign was successful because the posters and signs featured designs that were easy for non-English speakers to quickly grasp. With half the tourists in Santa Monica coming from abroad, she said it was important the campaign be highly visual and have any text translated into multiple languages on fliers and other materials.
“In terms of the international visitors’ knowledge, they’re just not going to know [about the ban]. There’s so many tourists and a lot of them are coming in for the first time,” Baker said. She said so far there haven’t been complaints that the ban is being enforced against unaware tourists.