Eleven years after it became one of the first cities in Los Angeles County to enact an anti-smoking ordinance, Culver City is considering tougher restrictions on smoking in the workplace, in restaurants and other public and private locations.
A proposed amendment would prohibit smoking in places of employment if employees request it. Culver City's existing law forbids smoking in passenger elevators, buses, food markets, libraries, museums, theaters, waiting rooms of health care facilities and public meetings.
The amendment was proposed last month in a letter from Carl Siminow and Susan Swadener, members of Californians for Nonsmokers' Rights. The council discussed it at Monday's meeting.
"As a nonsmoker, I find myself tolerating situations in rooms where I've been with smokers," said Councilman Paul A. Jacobs, who wants the law to include workplaces. "Whether we are conscious of it or not, there is a health hazard."
Councilman Richard Brundo, however, is opposed to the amendment. "I believe our ordinance is sufficient and is working for the city," he said.
Siminow, a Culver City resident, said the should city approve the amendment "to protect the workers and diners of the city from secondhand smoke. . . . Our new office and industrial areas have to provide for employees."
Dr. Steven Levy, a Culver City physician specializing in pulmonary medicine, told the council that secondary smoke can harm nonsmokers.
"According to existing evidence, even if you don't smoke the cigarette itself, in time there will be damage to the lungs," Levy said.
Walt Bilofsky, a board member of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, said the amendment was aimed not at smokers but at controlling respiratory and other health problems that secondary smoke causes for nonsmokers.
Bilofsky said more than 70 cities in the state, including Los Angeles, have enacted laws requiring employers to limit smoking in the workplace.
He said that although there have been complaints about the restrictions, the cities have encountered few legal challenges.
But Councilman Richard Alexander, an engineer, said fewer of his co-workers are smoking on the job. Alexander said the city may not need the law if smoking is becoming less popular.
"It may be that we are legislating something that is going its natural way," he said.
Culver City passed its smoking ordinance in May, 1975. Violation of the law, a misdemeanor, may be punished by a fine of up to $250.
The Human Services and Park Commission will conduct hearings on the proposed ordinance change over the next several months.