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The National Cancer Institute states that secondhand smoke contains at least 250 harmful chemicals, including 69 that can cause cancer. On March 8, diners at restaurants with outdoor patios in Los Angeles will not have to worry about inhaling those chemicals.
Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, joined Councilmember Greig Smith, 12th District, at a Starbucks in Porter Ranch Jan. 13 to announce the City of Los Angeles’ ban on smoking on restaurant patios that will take effect March 8.
The motion for the ban was first introduced by Smith in 2008 and was seconded by LaBonge. The ordinance was passed in 2010 and restaurants have had a one-year grace period to allow the businesses to prepare for the new law. The ban will exclude bars. Smoking on a restaurant patio would be punishable by a fine of up to $250.
“Smoking is a personal decision,” LaBonge said. “But so is the decision not to smoke. If you have to light-up a cigarette outside a restaurant or cafe, take a little walk down the sidewalk while you smoke. But don’t forget to pick-up your cigarette butts.”
Restaurants with bars that also serve food on the patios will not be excluded.
“If food is being served on the patio, it will be a no-go for a smoke,” said Todd Leitz, spokesperson for LaBonge.
Starbucks has taken the ban a step further and now prohibits patio smoking at all of its stores throughout California.
“We appreciate Councilmembers Smith and LaBonge for recognizing our commitment to providing a comfortable environment for our customers to enjoy their Starbucks experience. We made this change because an increasing number of communities across California are restricting smoking in outdoor areas and we’re pleased with how our customers have responded,” said a spokesperson for Starbucks in a statement.
Other restaurants in Los Angeles have also been proactive at banning smoking on their patios. Ulysses Voyage, a Greek restaurant at the Original Farmers Market, has not allowed smoking on their patio for six years. A manager at the restaurant said they allowed it the first year they opened but many customers complained about the smoke.
Another restaurant that will make changes to its smoking policy is Monsieur Marcel Pain Vin Et Fromage, a French restaurant also located in the Farmers Market. The restaurant currently has a designated smoking section on the patio that will be eliminated when the ban takes effect.
As for the Farmers Market itself, all of the businesses aim to be smoke-free by the time the ban takes effect, according to their spokesperson Ilysha Buss.
Many other cities, such as Burbank, Malibu, and Calabasas have enacted similar bans. The City of West Hollywood is also considering drafting an ordinance to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas and will review the ordinance at the city council’s next meeting on Feb. 7. Provisions in the proposed ordinance include excluding bars and nightclubs from the ban. Establishments that operate a restaurant and bar will be allowed to create smoking operation plans, to allow smoking on the patios during certain hours. Hotels will also be encouraged to establish smoke-free areas around their pools through incentive plans.
The ban on smoking outdoors is aimed at reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, which has been classified as a carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,400 lung-cancer deaths in non-smoking adults, and 50,000 to 300,000 lung infections in children under 18 months every year.
The enforcement of the ban in Los Angeles could prove tricky. Many people may still smoke on restaurant patios until and Leitz acknowledged it would be up to restaurant owners to keep smokers from lighting up.
“We are hoping the ban will be self-enforcing,” Leitz said. “If someone lights up and a manager asks the person to put it out, we hope that would be the end of it. Most people are usually courteous enough to put the smoke out.”
If a smoker refuses to put out the cigarette, the manager would have to involve the police to deal with the matter.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come to that,” Leitz said. “The police have better things to do, but if someone refuses to cooperate, then that’s what will happen.”
While there may be some early resistance to the ban by some, Leitz said people will get used to it, like they did for a previous smoking ban inside restaurants and bars.
“People freaked out when they banned smoking in bars,” Leitz said. “But now it’s the way we live and everyone adjusted.”
For more information on the smoking ban, call (213)978-3569 or visit www.lapublichealth.org/tob.
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