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Smoking Ban on Intrastate Transit Goes to Governor

September 10, 1987|DANIEL M. WEINTRAUB | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Shrugging aside the impassioned and sometimes humorous pleas of several lawmakers, the Senate on Wednesday passed and sent to Gov. George Deukmejian legislation to ban smoking on all commercial airplane, train and bus trips that occur entirely within the state.

The bill would also require that at least 75% of the space in airports and public transit centers be set aside for nonsmokers.

Deukmejian so far has taken no position on the bill, according to his deputy press secretary, Donna Lucas. If he signs it, the bill will become law Jan. 1.

The Senate voted 24 to 6 for the bill despite warnings from opponents that it would violate civil rights, discriminate against the working class and make senators look like hypocrites for banning smoking on public transit while allowing it on the Senate floor.

One opponent called the bill a "stinking proposition." Another said it was the work of "health fascists."

But Sen. Nicholas C. Petris (D-Oakland), sponsoring the bill on behalf of the American Cancer Society, easily obtained a majority of votes, including those of at least two members who said they favored limits on smoking in public even though they regularly puff on cigars.

As the governor considers whether to sign the measure, he will be lobbied by the airline industry, which opposes the bill on grounds that it represents an improper intrusion by the state into an area normally regulated by the federal government.

"We hate to see 50 individual states legislating in this area," said John F. O'Malley Jr., a lobbyist for Pacific Southwest Airlines and the Air Transport Assn. However, he added, "This is not a biggie. . . . The airlines have gone on record as saying we would not be opposed to a total ban (on smoking)."

Opposition to the measure on the Senate floor was led by Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), the conservative former Los Angeles police chief who often finds his anti-crime crusades at odds with lobbyists for civil libertarian groups.

"This is something being pushed by the health fascists who are going to save us whether or not they kill us in the process," Davis, a pipe smoker, said. "It's a violation of my civil rights. . . . Where is the (American Civil Liberties Union) when you need them?"

Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) complained that banning smoking on buses, trains and airplanes was a bad move for Democrats because it would affect what he described as the "mostly uneducated" working class more than the "yuppies and liberals we find here in the Legislature who support these kinds of things."

Another opponent, Sen. Daniel E. Boatwright (D-Concord), referred to the stench from a colleague's "El Ropo" cigar and said the Senate should "clean up its own house" before subjecting other Californians to its whims. "This is a stinking proposition," he added.

But the bill's backers, citing a recent U.S. surgeon general's report on the hazards of second-hand smoke, contended that the measure was a needed protection for nonsmokers against what is often referred to as "involuntary smoking."

"What are the civil rights of an infant or young children who have no protection because the air they are inhaling is obviously contaminated?" asked Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach).

"This bill is not onerous," added Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), a cigar smoker who said he indulges only in places where it does not offend others. "I think we ought to send a message to the rest of the country that California is going to lead the fight now for clean air, whether on the ground or up in the air."

Petris said he is convinced that the state can regulate smoking on airlines because federal law prohibits such intrusions only in areas involving fares, routes or services. Petris added a letter to the Senate's record stating that his intent was not to regulate interstate flights.

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