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Proposed residential smoking ban in Santa Monica fails

July 25, 2012 |  7:47 am

Santa Monica city leaders Tuesday night tabled a ban on residential smoking, citing unanswered questions about the proposed ordinance's effect on medical marijuana users and condominium owners.

The measure, which failed on a 4-2 City Council vote after passing 4-2 on its first reading, would have designated all new units in apartments and condominium complexes as non-smoking units.

Tenants, including medical marijuana smokers, who wanted to keep smoking in their homes would have had to disclose that to their landlords and get their units designated as smoking units, a stipulation one member of the council felt would violate tenants' privacy.

The council asked city staff for a reworked version of the ordinance but didn't name a date for when the panel would again take up the issue.

The proposed ban has drawn harsh criticism from medical marijuana users and smoking advocates, who say it violates their civil and property rights. 

David Weiss owns Lone Wolf Cigars, a smoke shop a block from Santa Monica City Hall. He says the proposal unfairly targets the cigar-smoking community, which centers around infrequent, social smoking in residences. He called the proposed ban "crazy."

"Why can't a neighbor just call a neighbor? I just think this pits us against each other," he said.

Weiss said he supported the city's bans on smoking on the Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier even though he claimed the laws cut his walk-in traffic in half. But he added that he thinks the city is headed for a blanket ban on smoking, which he called "insane."

"It's the unintended consequences of these laws that people don't consider," Weiss said.

Supporters of the ban measure say they need protection from their smoking neighbors. Willow Evans said secondhand smoke from her neighbors used to waft into her apartment via her kitchen sink, power socket and heating vents.

"I was so sick I couldn't finish a sentence without coughing," Evans said. "And I couldn't afford to move."

She said her health has improved since her landlord has turned her building into a non-smoking complex.

Several municipalities around Los Angeles County are imposing stricter controls on smoking. Pasadena, South Pasadena, Compton, Burbank, Huntington Park and Baldwin Park have enacted bans on smoking in apartments and condominiums that will take effect within the next two years. 

In Santa Monica, smoking is banned at public parks, beaches, libraries, in outdoor dining areas, within 20 feet of operable windows and doors, and on the Third Street Promenade. Fines begin at $100; second and third violations draw fines of $200 and $500, respectively. 

About 11% of Santa Monica's population smokes, beneath the county's average of 14%, according to the county Department of Public Health. 

Mayor Richard Bloom, who voted against the proposed ordinance despite supporting it the first time, said the measure was not dead.

"I'm very resolute that we do pass something that moves this forward," he said. 


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-- Frank Shyong