DEL MAR — Former Mayor Richard Roe will move ahead with the Del Mar Health Initiative, his controversial campaign to ban smoking in all public places here.
At a Thursday press conference, Roe said he has mailed letters to Del Mar's 4,000 registered voters, requesting their signatures on petitions supporting the unusual initiative. The anti-nicotine advocate must gather 400 signatures, or 10% of the registered voters, to qualify his proposal for the ballot.
"I figured that since this is National Smokeout Day, it was the right time to do it," said Roe, a publishing executive and former smoker. "I hope to have the petitions at Del Mar City Hall by the end of the month."
Roe said that, if he collects enough signatures, his measure could be on the ballot in time for a special municipal election scheduled in February. The initiative, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, aims to eliminate smoking from all municipally owned areas, including sidewalks, beaches, streets and parks.
Although the proposal has prompted an angry response from some residents, Roe insists he's not "an abolitionist."
"The ordinance asks the City Council to designate public smoking areas, three of them, in Del Mar," he said. "And, of course, people can smoke in their homes, in their yards and in bars."
Roe believes the initiative will have no trouble winning support at the polls. A random survey showed that 60% of the 240 people he contacted would support the ban, he said.
"Del Mar has always been a progressive city, willing to speak up," Roe said. "The city is not large, but hopefully this will be the proverbial shot heard around the world. I'd like to think the no-smoking movement would take off from here."
On Thursday, Roe's campaign got a boost from the scientific community when he presented a panel of local health and medical authorities who applauded his initiative. Gary Eaton, a psychiatrist at Sharp Memorial Hospital; John Elder, a professor of public health at San Diego State University, and John Cates, a UC San Diego physical education specialist, all turned out to endorse the ban.
Roe launched his no-smoking campaign earlier this year because he grew tired of breathing other people's smoke while waiting for public transportation and sitting in public parks.
"It's so annoying," he said. "I just got sick of having people puffing all around me."