The restaurant association's executive vice president, Stan Kyker, dismissed local restrictions as "piecemeal" and confusing. "If secondhand smoke is a health hazard, then it is a health hazard for employees as well as customers, and it is a health hazard in all types of establishments in all parts of the states," he said.
Association officials said the about-face, which came on a 90-0 vote at the June meeting of its board of directors, was not a direct response to Braude's May 29 proposal for a total restaurant smoking ban, the toughest in any major U.S. city.
It is a reaction "only to the degree that Los Angeles becomes part of that patchwork quilt (of regulations) that is beginning to develop all over the state," said Kyker. "To say that it had absolutely nothing to do with it would be shortsighted, but to say that it is a response to it is also clearly too simplistic."
Throughout the country, local government agencies have sometimes been more vigorous in legislating matters from gun control to fireworks and smoking issues. In part, it is because lobbying money and special-interest leverage are often more effectively employed at the state level.
The restaurant association opposed piecemeal legislation as creating unfair competition between restaurants in neighboring cities. Kyker said it also would be against any state legislation banning smoking in restaurants alone, without including other public places.
"Our board believes it is not a rights, moral or ethical issue," Thompson said. "It is simply a health issue. We feel beyond a reasonable doubt that secondhand smoke is a real health problem, especially for employees."
"In the past, and up until this year, we have understood the smoking controversy to be a rights or moral issue that we felt we didn't have any business making any judgments about," she said. "Our board was not pro- or anti-smoking. They just wanted to accommodate those who wanted to eat at the restaurant or drink at the bar. They wanted people to be happy."
Thompson said the reversal also came in the wake of passage of the anti-toxics Proposition 65 in 1986, which, among other things, required the posting of signs where food is served warning of the hazards to health of smoking.
"Our board looked at that and they felt this was the beginning of their acknowledgment that maybe there is something to the scientific studies that secondhand smoke is dangerous," she said.
Contributing to this report was staff writer Carl Ingram in Sacramento