The Los Angeles City Council unanimously gave its final approval to an ordinance banning smoking in all of the city’s public parks Wednesday, August 1st.

The council voted 12-0 to expand an existing ordinance that prohibits smoking at “certain locations in public parks and at beaches,” to prohibit smoking “in all city parks.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed the Smoke-Free Parks Ordinance into law Wednesday, August 8th, and it will go into effect the week of September 17th, according to Darryl Ryan, a spokesman for the mayor.

This move comes three months after a fire — believed to have been started by a man who fell asleep while smoking in a brush area — swept through and destroyed 817 acres of Griffith Park.

The move also comes in the midst of one of the driest seasons on record.

“We live in such a climate [with such] dryness that if someone drops a cigarette it can start a fire,” said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the local area. “This [ordinance] has to do with public health, public safety and environmental issues.”

Rosendahl also points out the importance of protecting children from second-hand smoke, something from which there is no risk-free level of exposure, according to a U.S. Surgeon General report.

“Our parks are visited by kids and we need to protect the health of our youths,” Rosendahl says. “Kids shouldn’t have to breathe in second-hand smoke.”

The expanded ordinance will require that the Department of Recreation and Parks post and maintain “No Smoking” signs throughout the parks in conspicuous locations, deputy city attorney Adrienne Khorasanee said.

Violators will be charged with an infraction and will be subject to a fine of $250 per violation.

The motion was made by Councilman Tom LaBonge, chairman of the City Council Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee and vice chair of the Public Works Committee.

After the fire at Griffith Park, “I said we should possibly accelerate this [motion],” LaBonge said. “People will have to find another place to smoke a cigarette.

“I hope we can have full cooperation. [This ordinance is] good for health. It’s good for the parks.” LaBonge also pointed out that, currently, “a lot of cigarette butts” pollute the grounds of the city’s parks.

“Cigarettes also contribute to trash in the storm drains and obviously eventually into ocean pollution,” Rosendahl said. “By reducing litter, it, of course, helps us meet our federal water quality mandates.”

In 2002, the city banned smoking within 25 feet of playground equipment, bleachers, backstops, picnic areas and sports courts and fields.

And in 2004, it banned smoking on the city’s beaches.

Since that time, other cities in the county and across the state have banned smoking in parks and other public areas.

The City of Santa Monica prohibits smoking in all parks, at all city beaches, in government service waiting areas and most areas of the Santa Monica Pier.

Last year, the Santa Monica City Council approved a far-reaching outdoor smoking ban to provide the public greater protection from second-hand smoke, a “toxic air contaminant,” and its negative health effects.

For the City of Los Angeles, smoking will be prohibited in all city parks, with exceptions for the following areas:

… city golf courses, except at Roosevelt Golf Course, Wilson Golf Course, Harding Golf Course and Tregnan Golf Academy, where smoking is allowed in designated areas;

… areas within parks that are specified in a permit issued by the Recreation and Parks Film Office authorizing smoking for filming purposes only and by actors only; and

… designated smoking areas at the Autry National Center, the Greek Theater and the Los Angeles Zoo.

Of the expanded ordinance, Rosendahl said, “It’s a win for all of us from a public health standpoint, from a public safety standpoint and from an environmental safety standpoint.”

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