More than 20 people in support of an ordinance that would provide greater protection from second-hand smoke in Santa Monica showed up at the Santa Monica City Council meeting Tuesday, July 25th.
At the meeting, City Council directed staff to prepare an ordinance to be on the ballot of the election Tuesday, November 7th, that would ban smoking in all outdoor dining areas and outdoor service areas and within 20 feet of entrances and windows to buildings open to the public, as well as the Third Street Promenade and Farmers Markets.
This, they believe, will provide the public greater protection from second-hand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke, and its negative health effects. The ordinance is expected to pass.
Part of what sparked discussion of this ordinance was a California Air Resources Board report earlier this year that called second-hand smoke a “toxic air contaminant.”
Adam Radinsky, Santa Monica deputy city attorney, presented some of the recent findings from a U.S. Surgeon General report on environmental tobacco.
Radinsky emphasized what U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona recently stated, that “there is no risk-free level of second-hand smoke exposure.”
Some people and businesses may be concerned about losing clientele and tourism if such an ordinance is passed, but “if anything, [there will be] an increase in popularity and tourism,” Radinsky said.
Since the ban on smoking in bars began in Santa Monica there has been no evidence to prove a drop in sales, Radinsky said. In fact, city research shows that smoking bans actually have helped tourism, he said.
Many residents and health advocates spoke at the meeting in favor of the ordinance.
However, West Hooker, owner of Locanda del Lago, which is on the Third Street Promenade, expressed his concerns about the smoking ban at the meeting.
“I’m concerned with even losing a small part of my clientele,” Hooker said.
He said that the restaurant is already very expensive to operate, and he is concerned about being able to “make ends meet.”
Hooker said that when the non-smoking ban was enforced in bars in Santa Monica, Locanda del Lago lost business from his regulars who smoked at the bar.
“The clientele never returned,” Hooker said.
He also expressed concern about deep fines that might discourage or “shock” smokers into never returning to local businesses.
At the City Council meeting, Trisha Roth, a pediatrician who is also on the Executive Board of the California Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Substance Abuse, praised staff for “an excellent staff report.”
So did Esther Shiller, executive director of Smokefree Air For Everyone (S.A.F.E.).
“It’s simply a great idea,” to create an ordinance banning smoking in outdoor dining and service areas, Shiller said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
Additionally, people from Santa Monica’s Fresh Air Dining Program, the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Coalition for a Tobacco Free Los Angeles County, BREATHE California of Los Angeles, Smokefree Air For Everyone and the Asthma Coalition of Los Angeles County all spoke at the council meeting in support of the staff recommendation.
After public comments, the councilmembers discussed the possible ordinance.
The evidence has been pouring in, building the case against second-hand smoke,” said Councilman Richard Bloom. “The studies have been done over and over again. I think the time has come to take further steps. We do this to bring about a safe and healthier community.”
Councilman Herbert Katz echoed what Bloom said, but also expressed his concern for employees that might want to smoke on their breaks.
“I do not believe it’s going to hurt any of our restaurants, so I’m supporting it,” Katz said.
Councilman Kevin McKeown agreed.
“I do believe the tourists will adapt,” McKeown said. “Most people arrive here on a smoke-free aircraft.”
Councilwoman Sandra O’Connor was the only one not in support of the recommendation to create this ordinance.
“We’re criminalizing people who smoke when it’s a legal substance,” O’Connor said. “It is an attempt to ban smoking totally. The actions we’re taking make it difficult to smoke. We’re not giving people an option.”
A sampling of people on the Third Street Promenade revealed a variety of views.
Liat Edri, who works at ID X-Change on the Promenade, smokes but thinks the ban could be a good thing.
“I do support it,” Edri said as she smoked a cigarette. “I’m not going to die from not smoking all day. I know how bad it is for your body and I know how many families and kids hang out here.”
Still, Edri said that smoking is a social event and that she would be around less often to hang out with her friends in areas where she couldn’t smoke.
Edri doesn’t think people are going to stop coming to the Promenade altogether, but she does think that it’s “not going to help the shopping.”
Alyssa Bernard, a non-smoker who lives in Phoenix and was visiting Santa Monica on vacation, said that it’s a “tough” decision to make.
“I think it’s kind of a step in a very controlled direction [if the ordinance passes],” said Bernard.
“For me, it would be good,” Bernard said, noting that she saw a lot of families who brought their children to the Promenade. “It helps people who don’t want to be in an environment that compromises their health.”
Still, Bernard said she could understand why a smoker would be upset and dislike the ban.
Bernard doesn’t think that the ban will affect local businesses.
“This place is popular enough that it would be able to hold its ground,” Bernard said of the Promenade.
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 (Labor Code ß6404.5) 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.
Now, there are up to 24 cities in California that prohibit smoking — completely or partly — at outdoor dining areas, including Long Beach, Berkeley, Davis, Palo Alto, Santa Barbara and Laguna Hills, according to city officials.
Calabasas, about 20 miles northwest of Santa Monica, recently adopted what are said to be the strongest outdoor smoking restrictions in the nation in March.
Currently, city staff is developing the Santa Monica ordinance and will present it to City Council shortly to discuss it and possibly place the measure on the November ballot for residents to vote on.