A proposed smoking ordinance that West Hollywood officials say is one of the toughest in the nation won the unanimous approval of the City Council on its first reading.
Restaurateurs, who would be hit the hardest if the regulation goes into effect next April, promise strong opposition at a second reading later this month.
The ordinance, introduced last Thursday, is the "the toughest in the state, based on what I've seen," according to Mary Sandburg, a public affairs director of the American Cancer Society who said she is familiar with the terms of 53 other smoking ordinances in California.
Restrictions in Workplace
It would prohibit smoking in employee lounges, conference rooms, restrooms, hallways, elevators, conference rooms and employee cafeterias. Smoking would be permitted only in separate, enclosed areas. Workers who want to work in smoking areas must request it in writing, the proposed ordinance says, and in case of conflict, the non-smokers would prevail.
Smoking would be forbidden in public places, including retail stores, service, food production and marketing establishments, theaters, waiting rooms, reception areas, educational and health facilities, public transportation, hallways, elevator, escalators, lobbies, reception areas, restrooms and similar areas.
The ordinance would require restaurants with a seating capacity of more than 35 to set aside at least 50% of its seating for non-smoking sections. Eating places with seating for 35 people or less would be required to post a sign indicating that there is no separate seating for non-smokers.
"It's impossible," said Bernice Altschul of Carlos and Charlie's restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. "How can we do it? There is no way that we can possibly do it.
"They (the council) read this (the ordinance) at 1 o'clock in the morning. No wonder nobody knows anything about it. That's why there was no objection. We certainly will be there (when the ordinance is read again), and we are getting a notice out. They will be getting a good reaction, that's for sure. If a restaurant had an occupancy of 40, 20 seats would go for non-smokers." That, Altschul said, would hurt business.
Council records show the ordinance was considered sometime between 11 p.m. and about 12:45 a.m.
Kay McGraw, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said: "Having been in the restaurant business myself, I would hate to have that extra burden of chasing customers out if they smoke. It's unfair.
"I don't disagree with trying to make our nation healthier, (but) I don't know that we can legislate health. Next we'll say that everyone must jog between 7 and 8 a.m. or you get a ticket.
"The council members want to be all things to all men. They are idealistic, and they are young. Their motives are OK, but they really don't have to pass a law on every subject. When you're handed a city that is financially sound, you shouldn't mess around with it."
Councilman Alan Viterbi said in a prepared statement: "In our first year of cityhood, the West Hollywood City Council has been in the forefront of the fight for human rights in a variety of situations. In this instance, we feel it is vital to protect all individuals from the significant health hazards and discomforts of second-hand smoke. It is for this reason that we have proposed one of the strongest smoking ordinances in the country.
"There may be some complaints when this ordinance first is enacted, but ultimately we expect the effects to be largely the same as in most other cities. There will probably be a minimal amount of inconvenience, but it will be a small price to pay for the improved health and quality of life that many of our citizens and visitors will experience."
If approved after the second reading, the ordinance goes to the mayor for signature. Violations of any sections of the ordinance would be misdemeanors.