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Council Considers Expanding Smoking Ban

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

February 21 -- In what could ultimately be one of the most stringent bans on smoking in California and the nation, Santa Monica officials are gearing up to enact a policy that could stamp out smoking at outdoor diners, outside private businesses and even in apartment buildings where smokers live.

After making headlines for banning butts at the beach two years ago and on the heals of a report by the California Air Resources Board underlining the deadly effects of second-hand smoke, City officials directed staff last week to look into crafting a new anti-smoking ordinance.

The ordinance will include “implications for residents, visitors and employees of Santa Monica,” according to the staff report.

Council members offered scant discussion on the item, however, several groups including the American Cancer Society and local residents lined up to speak out in favor of the ban.

“In 2003, we declared our parks smoke-free, in 2004, our beaches -- a move that served as a catalyst for a now global smoke-free beach movement,” said resident Robert Berger. “Tobacco policy has always happened at a city level…and we encourage the council to move forward with this.”

After a big win in Calabasas, a town of 30,000 in the San Fernando Valley where it will soon be illegal to light up in many places outdoors, anti-tobacco advocates are using the CARB report to push for change in towns like Santa Monica.

The report found that second hand smoke kills an estimated 3,000 people every year and leads to increases in smoke-related illnesses including asthma, heart disease, infant mortality and especially breast cancer among young women, according to an American Cancer Society officials who spoke at the meeting.

In addition to possibly enacting a ban on dining outdoors and outside of businesses, many groups and residents testified to the effects of second-hand smoke in Santa Monica apartment buildings.

“We have found a readiness in SM for no smoking sections in apartment buildings and no smoking buildings,” said Ester Schiller, Director of Smoke Free Air for Everyone, which received a grant from the County Health department to conduct surveys on smoking in Santa Monica apartment buildings.

An analysis of 426 surveys showed that fully 37 percent of Santa Monica apartment dwellers -- who account for nearly 70 percent of the town’s approximately 84,000 residents -- said they encountered smoke drift into their unit in the last year, she said.

“There is no remedy to the family or resident that is suffering,” said Schiller. “The situation in apartments in regards to tobacco smoke is like the old west before there was a sheriff."

In considering the policy introduced by Council members Richard Bloom and Ken Genser, staff was asked to review recent legislation that was passed by other cities such as Calabasas, where some say the anti-tobacco movement has gone too far.

It is unknown when staff will report back with recommendations.

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