LONG BEACH — A tough no-smoking ordinance that will greatly restrict smoking in both private offices and public places was approved with little comment and no opposition Tuesday by the City Council.
The measure, which goes into effect Aug. 30, provides for fines of up to $500 for violators.
When it takes effect, Long Beach will become the fifth city in Los Angeles County and at least the 51st in the state to limit smoking to some degree.
And, according to city officials, the local ordinance will be one of the toughest.
Indeed, McDonnell Douglas Corp. spokesman Henry Kruid, the only member of the public to speak on the ordinance Tuesday, called it ". . . the most stringent I've seen up and down the coast . . . . It's tougher than in Los Angeles."
Los Angeles approved a no-smoking law in April after intense debate and in the face of dogged lobbying by the tobacco industry. But no battle developed in Long Beach, where the Chamber of Commerce endorsed the proposed restrictions early on.
The new law will halt or limit smoking in public settings such as restrooms, theaters, restaurants, auditoriums, grocery stores, hospitals, hotel and airport lobbies and public meeting rooms.
But it probably will have its greatest effect in offices, where employers are required to favor nonsmokers in disputes over tobacco fumes.
The ordinance states: "It will be the responsibility of employers to provide smoke-free areas for nonsmokers within existing facilities to the maximum extent possible."
Owners of businesses with five or more employees must have a written company policy, in accordance with city law, by the end of November. Or, they can totally ban smoking.
Besides prohibiting smoking in conference rooms and hallways, each employer has to establish no-smoking areas in lunchrooms and lounges and give employees the right to declare their desks no-smoking zones.
But the ordinance does not force employers to pay for building improvements to enhance office conditions for nonsmokers.
Bars are not affected by the smoking ban, but restaurants that seat more than 50 people must reserve 25% of their seats for nonsmokers.
Persons caught smoking in restricted areas can be fined $50 the first time, $100 the second and $500 for the third violation within one year. The $500 penalty matches San Francisco's as the stiffest in the state.
Council members, who had praised the ordinance at its first reading, had little to say before the unanimous vote. Councilman James Wilson commented, however, that the new law would be difficult to enforce. In particular, Wilson said, a ban on smoking in such areas as hotel lobbies "is totally unenforceable."
McDonnell Douglas' Kruid, whose company favored the ordinance overall and adopted its own smoking restrictions in April, said he was concerned about the apparent inflexibility of the city law.
For example, said Kruid, some hallways at Douglas Aircraft, the city's largest employer, are "as long as a football field. No way are they part of the workplace." But the ordinance places the hallways, where employees often go to smoke, off-limits to smokers, he said.
The ordinance also prohibits smoking in conference rooms, whether people using the room object to smoking or not, said Kruid.
In response, Councilman Marc Wilder, a primary author of the legislation, said the ordinance allows a company to appeal to Dr. Rugmini Shah, city health officer, for exemption from provisions based on unusual circumstances at that company.
If the appeal is reasonable, the exemption "will probably be granted," Wilder said.