Brad Sipperley smokes on Santa Monica Pier on Tuesday afternoon. (photo by Michelle Terris)

SM PIER — Continuing a trend toward stricter anti-smoking rules in town, officials are set to consider an outright ban on lighting up at the Santa Monica Pier, citing concern that discarded cigarettes pose a fire risk.

Smoking on the family-friendly pier is already confined to seven designated areas, but there’s a growing consensus at City Hall that the existing restrictions, enacted in 2004, don’t go far enough, said Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Pier Restoration Corp., which oversees the pier.

He said two fires this spring that apparently ignited when discarded cigarette butts smoldered in the pier’s floorboards showed how risky smoking on the pier can be.

“We would qualify them as significant fires at the west-end that required extended effort to put out,” Franz-Knight said. “We’re fortunate that they happened in the middle of the day.”

As opposed to other recent steps to further restrict smoking in public places, such as the ban on smoking in apartment building common areas that took effect in 2009, the pier proposal isn’t about public health.

“This is primarily about safety of the facility and the fact that it’s a 100-year-old wooden pier, and we want to do everything we can to protect it,” Franz-Knight said.

A subcommittee of the PRC board on Monday approved the idea of an outright smoking ban, sending the proposal to the full PRC board for consideration on July 7.

The City Council would have final say on whether to enact the ban.

In supporting the proposal, the subcommittee also recommended that City Hall conduct a “significant education and signage” campaign to publicize any potential ordinance change at the pier.

Councilman Kevin McKeown said he’s open to considering the ban, but said a total smoking prohibition on the entire length of the pier is unlikely unless the council is presented with compelling safety reasons.

He said when the council last considered smoking on the pier, members were careful to balance public health concerns with the practicality of an outright ban.

“We very deliberately allowed for some smoking on the pier, understanding that the nature of a long, elevated causeway meant that someone couldn’t just ‘step outside the area,’” he said.

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