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L.A. officials express support for smoking ban in outdoor dining areas

October 27, 2009 |  1:14 pm

A Los Angeles City Council committee voiced support today for a ban on smoking in the city’s outdoor dining areas, but ordered several changes to the ordinance before sending it to the full council for approval.

The council could take up the measure as early as next month.

City code already prohibits smoking in parks, farmers’ markets and on city beaches, while state law bars customers from lighting up inside restaurants. Other cities have imposed far more restrictive bans; Calabasas, for instance, prohibits smoking in public areas.

The legislation authored by Councilmen Greig Smith and Dennis Zine would ban smoking within a 10-foot radius of outdoor dining areas. The proposed no-smoking area around mobile food trucks and food kiosks would extend for 40 feet.

Bars, private events and nightclubs serving customers older than 18 would be exempt.

At Tuesday’s hearing of the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, Councilman Tom LaBonge said he asked the deputy city attorney to add an exemption for restaurants that have two outdoor dining areas. If the patios are more than 100 feet apart, one could be designated for smokers while the other would be smoke-free, he said.

Councilman Herb Wesson, a committee member and a smoker, said he planned to support the proposal, but hoped the council would proceed thoughtfully. “Smokers should not be treated like lepers; they are not criminals, they are not bad people and we need to be sensitive to their needs as well,” he said.

Smokers who violate the policy — or businesses that do not post proper signs about the restrictions — could face fines of up to $250. But the proposed ordinance does not specify which city agency would enforce the law.

“It is impossible for the Police Department to really restrict this activity,” Wesson said. “I think this is the right thing for us to do, but it’s going to have a lot of challenges.”

Eric Batch, a vice president of advocacy for the American Heart Assn., told council members the ordinance should be strengthened by clarifying the enforcement provisions and the definition of an outdoor dining area.

Victor Franco Jr., a lobbyist with Ek & Ek representing Cigar Rights of America, said he continued to have concerns about the sign requirements and said he hoped the ban would not affect fine dining establishments that offer cigars and cognac to their patrons in outdoor patio areas.

If the policy is passed by City Council, restaurateurs would be asked to post signs explaining the restrictions during a six-month public education period.

-- Maeve Reston at City Hall

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