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Expanded Smoking Ban Set to Kick In

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

November 22 -- If you want to smoke after your shopping spree this weekend, you’d better watch where you light up in Santa Monica.

Starting Thanksgiving Day, a new law kicks into effect that expands Santa Monica’s far-reaching smoking ban to include all outdoor dining areas, farmers markets and the Third Street Promenade.

Approved by the City Council last month, the law also stamps out smoking in outdoor waiting areas -- such as ATMs, bus stops and movie lines -- and areas around public buildings that are within 20 feet of entrances, exits or windows that can open.

After the law goes into effect, City officials will educate local businesses about the ban, provide table-top information at restaurants and offer posters online that can be easily downloaded.

"Our intent right now is to educate as many people as possible," said Paula Rockenstein, an attorney and consumer affairs specialist with the City. "Obviously, we are not going to be going out and citing people right away."

Still police can cite those violating the law if they feel there is a need to do so, City officials said.

“If necessary, and if a smoker refuses a request to stop smoking in a prohibited location, police officers may also give citations,” said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky, who is in charge of consumer affairs.

Violators would face fines of $250 for an infraction that would be similar in nature to a jaywalking citation, he said.

Capt. Alex Padilla, the Police Department spokesperson, said officers have been briefed to "warn and advise," but added that it is up to them to decide whether to issue a ticket.

"They can exercise their judgement," Padilla said.

The law is Santa Monica’s latest attempt to cut down on deadly second-hand smoke, after the California Air Resources Board (CARB) declared it a toxic substance at any level earlier this year.

"We want to create a more healthy environment for our residents and visitors," Rockenstein said.

Rockenstein – who co-authored the law – said she has been fielding calls for the past week from a number of individuals and businesses concerned about how it could impact their bottom line.

“People want to know all sorts of things," she said. "How it will affect revenue… has been a big concern, though, from the beginning."

The tourism industry – which pumps an estimated $50 million into the City’s economy each year – has expressed particular concern over how the ban could impact tourism.

Last week nearly 50 people packed into a room at the new library to ask questions and voice concerns in a meeting with City attorneys organized by the Chamber of Commerce.

"There has been concern… but more concern because it may be confusing for customers or guests," said James Lynch, the new president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. "It mostly stems from not wanting guests to have misunderstandings."

Hotels, for example, want to know if the law bans smoking in the pool areas where food is served, Lynch said.

"Just how do you tell your guests where it's not okay to light up," he said. "I think for hotels, many believe that guests could choose to go somewhere else or that return guests may not choose them next time."

One of the challenges will be overcoming cultural barriers. "Some cultures smoke quite a bit," Lynch said.

For the most part, many businesses want to make a smooth transition, which will require educating the public, City officials said.

In addition to the question and answer session with businesses, the City also is sending out high-gloss flyers, and officials have launched a web site to help steer residents and visitors in the right direction.

City officials are also exploring posting more signs in at least three different languages, all part of a comprehensive effort to make the City healthier without hurting revenue.

"We all want to work together on this," Rockenstein said.



"Our intent right now is to educate as many people as possible," said Paula Rockenstein


"Some cultures smoke quite a bit." James Lynch

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