The Del Mar Fairgrounds is taking a stronger stance on smoking - both the legal and illegal kind.
From now on, the San Diego County Fair will be a smoke-free event, with smoking allowed only in a few designated areas where second-hand smoke will not affect other patrons.
"The majority of fair-goers can expect a smoke-free environment," said Barry Nussbaum, a member of the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors, which unanimously approved the new smoking policy Oct. 14.
The fair board also unanimously approved a new reggae concert policy to crack down on observed marijuana use during the popular reggae performances during the fair.
No longer will they be free with fair admission and open to all ages.
Reggae concerts will now be paid shows held in the grandstand requiring a separate ticket for admittance.
Individuals must be at least 21-years-old to attend. The age restriction will reduce possible underage alcohol abuse and protect younger children from being exposed to any smoke, Nussbaum said.
There will be heightened security at the reggae concerts, which will include pat downs of attendees before entering the venue.
Smoking tobacco will be limited to designated areas; otherwise, no smoking and anti-drug signage will be visible and similar announcements will be made during the concerts.
The fairgrounds' current policy of prohibiting drug paraphernalia sales will continue to be strictly enforced. Fairgrounds officials plan to draft legal language for performer contracts prohibiting the use and promotion of illegal drugs during performances there.
"So what we're working so hard on here will not be subverted during their performance," Nussbaum said.
The policy changes only apply to reggae concerts during the fair at this time. Whether the same rules will apply to reggae festivals during the thoroughbred race meet is still up for discussion.
Both the smoke-free fair and reggae concert policies were applauded by the alcohol, drug and smoking prevention advocates who have urged the fairgrounds to address these issues.
"We all consider this a first, but great step," said
Judi Strang, director of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth.
Strang and a collation of numerous groups met with fairgrounds management to provide input on the adopted policies.
However, they continued to challenge the fairgrounds to go all the way and become smoke free year-round, like Petco Park and other major entertainment venues.
"You may be the first state fair to take that step, but then we could call you big, bold and beautiful," said Debra Kelley, representing the American Lung Association.
General Manager Tim Fennell issued a firm warning to anyone who might disregard the seriousness of the new policies.
"Please don't come here and think you'll be able to smoke marijuana," Fennell said. "We're not going to allow it."
If concert-goers continue to break the law, the "next step maybe discontinuing the reggae concerts," Fennell said. "That's not what we want to do."