Soon, smoking in Santa Monica may be seriously restricted in public.

On Tuesday, October 10th, the Santa Monica City Council gave its initial approval to a strong smoking ban in the city that would prohibit smoking on the Third Street Promenade, among other places.

All six councilmembers present voted for the ordinance and the council is expected to give its final approval to the smoking ban at its next meeting, Tuesday, October 24th.

This ban will prohibit smoking on the Third Street Promenade, all farmers markets, and all outdoor dining areas and outdoor service areas, such as bus stops, ATM lines and movie theater lines, in Santa Monica.

Additionally, it will ban smoking within 20 feet of entrances, exits or open windows of buildings open to the public.

This, the council believes, will provide the public greater protection from second-hand smoke and its negative health effects.

The council first discussed this potential smoking ban in July and asked city staff to return with an ordinance for review. At the time, Councilwoman Pam O’Connor was the sole councilmember opposed to the ban, saying, “We’re criminalizing people who smoke, when it’s a legal substance. It is an attempt to ban smoking totally.”

O’Connor was not present at the October 10th meeting.

Part of what sparked discussion of a smoking ban was a California Air Resources Board (ARB) report earlier this year, calling second-hand smoke a “toxic air contaminant,” that is responsible for over 400 additional lung cancer deaths and over 3,600 cardiac deaths each year in California alone. Also, a recent U.S. Surgeon General report on environmental tobacco found that “there is no risk-free level of second-hand smoke exposure.”

The item drew many television news networks to City Hall, including FOX, ABC, CBS and NBC.

It also brought about 30 local residents to speak on the issue. Of all who spoke, less than a handful were opposed to the smoking ban in Santa Monica.

James Jacobson, a Santa Monica resident, said he thought the ordinance “goes too far” and takes away personal liberties.

“I don’t have any objection to banning smoking in certain areas outside, but this goes too far,” Jacobson said.

Bruce Cameron, a member of the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau board of directors, was also opposed to the ordinance and said he thought more public input was needed. He said a study conducted by the bureau found that 26 to 28 percent of tourists come from countries where smoking is “prevalent.”

Cameron also called the staff report an “advocacy document,” and said that it was wrong to say that this smoking ban would have no fiscal impact.

“Why are we always talking economics?” Katz said, in response to Cameron’s comments. “This is a health issue. What about the value of human life?”

Some businesses may be concerned about losing clientele and tourism, but there has been no evidence to support this, said city attorney Adam Radinsky, head of the Consumer Protection Unit.

Of nine California cities that already have similar outdoor smoking restrictions in place, all reported no negative impact on business due to outdoor smoking restrictions.

The cities also reported “excellent success” with implementing and enforcing outdoor smoking laws and said that compliance has been high and public acceptance has been very good.

Berkeley, a city that has had smoke-free outdoor dining since 1997 and was one of the first two cities to implement a smoke-free radius outside businesses, reported that its program has been “hugely successful,” according to the city’s staff report. In Berkeley, only twice since 1997 were follow-up visits required at businesses due to violations.

“I really think it’s time for us to move this issue forward,” Councilman Richard Bloom said. “I hope we have a unanimous vote [in favor of the ban].”

“I think it’s a great ordinance,” said Katz. “It’s longtime overdue. When you don’t have your health, I don’t care what you have, you don’t have anything. Health is everything. It’s time we do this. Let’s quit being afraid of losing money.”

“It’s a matter of protecting the citizens of Santa Monica,” said Jessica Zovar, a local middle school teacher. “Why not take an opportunity to make positive change now?”

Neil Carrey, an attorney at a health law group who lost his son to cancer and devotes much of his time to charitable events, agrees.

“We have an obligation — you have an obligation — to make this a safer place,” Carrey said to the council. “Santa Monica is looked to as a leader. Show the world we’re serious. Take the courageous step. There’s an absolute obligation for this to be passed tonight.”

In 2003, smoking was prohibited in all parks in Santa Monica.

Then in 2004, smoking was prohibited at all city beaches, government service waiting areas and most areas of the Santa Monica Pier.

The California Smoke-Free Workplace Act also prohibits smoking in most indoor workplaces in the state, including the majority of bars and restaurants, and makes it a crime for business owners to allow smoking by customers.

In March, Calabasas, about 20 miles northwest of Santa Monica, adopted what are said to be the strongest outdoor smoking restrictions in the nation. Initially, the city received a small amount of negative feedback about its smoking ban, but that stopped after one month and compliance has been “excellent” since that time, according to a staff report.

“I think we should do this,” Councilman Ken Genser said. “I don’t think there’s going to be any adverse effects, period.”

When the council approved the first reading of the ordinance, it received loud applause from many attending the meeting.

The City Council must now approve a second reading of the ordinance. The ordinance is expected to pass, and if it does, there will be a grace period in which there will be extensive outreach to the public, Radinsky said.

“I really support what you’re doing,” said 20-year Santa Monica resident Willow Evans to the council. “I think you’re awesome. Thank you for putting your health before money.”

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