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Smoking Ban Under Study in Arcadia

January 08, 1989|CRAIG QUINTANA | Times Staff Writer

Arcadia nonsmoker Paul Herr, who proposed a city ordinance last week that would ban smoking in most public places, said his effort was sparked by successful moves in surrounding cities.

Hoping to emulate Alhambra and Duarte, which are establishing ordinances, or Pasadena, which has had one for four years, Herr submitted a draft of a stringent ordinance to curtail smoking in Arcadia. The Arcadia City Council, while not fired up by Herr's proposal, nonetheless agreed last week to study it.

Herr, a member of the American Lung Assn. and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, the nation's largest nonsmoker lobby, said he senses a consensus in the community for smoking legislation and hopes that Arcadia and other San Gabriel Valley cities are ready to act.

"Pasadena passed its ordinance in 1984," he said. "Now we have three cities considering it in the same month. More and more people are saying if you want to hurt yourself with smoke, that's one thing, but don't hurt me.

As written, the draft ordinance is much tougher than anything in effect or under consideration locally. It would ban smoking in all enclosed public places except in designated areas. The proposal was prepared by Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and has been endorsed by Koop.

Will Review Ordinance

Arcadia Mayor Robert C. Harbicht said the draft ordinance would be reviewed, but that did not mean the city would consider adopting any smoking ordinance.

"Like most cities, we haven't done anything" about smoking, he said. "I've been on the council for 2 1/2 years, and we've never had anyone bring it up. (Last week) was the first I've heard of anybody wanting the city to adopt an ordinance."

The city has a policy of not allowing smoking at municipal meetings.

Harbicht said he dislikes smoking but would be unwilling to take action unless Herr or other ordinance advocates produce a compelling reason to restrict smoking.

"I guess what the whole thing comes down to for me is does secondhand smoke in restaurants and offices hurt the nonsmoker," he said. "I've seen no compelling evidence thus far."

Similarly, Councilman Charles E. Gilb said he is skeptical of the need for a tough ordinance, which he said could cause undue problems for the city's many smaller restaurants, which would face either having to ban smoking or make expensive accommodations to legally satisfy both sides.

"I'm worried about the little guys who have three tables and four stools," he said.

"I'm not too sure that we can go out and start regulating people's lives . . . at least until I know how that affects the business community."

A representative of the American Cancer Society said she hopes this is the beginning of a local trend.

'Start the Ball Rolling'

"We're real pleased," said Robin Sheets, the Pasadena branch's director of marketing and communications. "Hopefully, this will start the ball rolling in other cities."

Sheets said the San Gabriel Valley has lagged behind other communities in Los Angeles and Orange counties, which have adopted stringent smoking ordinances in recent years.

South Pasadena, Monterey Park and Walnut have ordinances prohibiting smoking in all city buildings. Walnut also requires that restaurants designate half their seating as smoke-free. South Pasadena has a policy of not hiring smokers. A handful of other cities have policies prohibiting smoking in public meeting rooms.

Pasadena's ordinance, which is being copied substantially by Duarte and Alhambra, is the most stringent in the San Gabriel Valley. It prohibits smoking in elevators, hospitals and health-care facilities, in public meeting places, theaters, auditoriums, public restrooms and service lines. For restaurants with 50 seats or more, the ordinance also requires that 25% of the seats be set aside for nonsmokers.

The ordinance bars smoking in a business' common areas and allows nonsmokers to designate their immediate workplace as nonsmoking. In settling workplace disputes, the wishes of nonsmokers take precedence.

Depending on the setting, smoking is allowed in designated areas under the ordinance. Bars are excluded from the restaurant provision.

Mounting concern about the dangers of second-hand smoke, nonsmoking activists argue, has motivated many cities to pass ordinances which limit where smokers may light up.

Second-Hand Smoke

A flurry of ordinances followed Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's 1986 report, which identified second-hand, or ambient, smoke as a health threat to nonsmokers. A federal Environmental Protection Agency study cited by Koop and nonsmoker groups estimated that up to 5,000 Americans die each year as a result of breathing second-hand smoke.

Concern for the public health was the determining factor in both Alhambra and Duarte.

Duarte is poised to adopt a tougher version of the Pasadena ordinance on Tuesday. It would require half of a restaurant's seating be reserved for nonsmokers.

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