In an effort to eliminate the danger of secondhand cigarette smoke, Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude introduced a motion Friday to ban smoking from all restaurants and city government buildings.
"If doctors and the vast majority of Los Angeles nonsmokers will rise up and support this proposal, we can tell the tobacco industry to shove off and take its sleazy act back to North Carolina," Braude said at a City Hall news conference.
The action came one year after the City Council rejected a similar proposal by Braude that would have only prohibited smoking in Los Angeles restaurants. Some medical experts have estimated that as many as 32,000 people die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Braude cited a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. blaming the defeat on intense and expensive lobbying efforts by the tobacco industry.
He said his latest proposal stands a better chance of being passed because of new membership on the council and because the percentage of Californians who smoke has reached an all-time low of 20%.
In addition, 12 California cities and two counties--including the cities of Sacramento and San Luis Obispo--have banned smoking entirely in restaurants in the last year, Braude said.
"While Los Angeles can no longer claim the honor of being the first city in California to provide smoke-free air to restaurant diners," Braude said, "it can still do the right thing by banning smoking altogether in restaurants."
The motion could go before the full City Council as early as January, said Braude, who wrote the city law that requires restaurants with 50 or more seats to set aside 50% of their tables for nonsmokers.
A spokesman for the California Restaurant Assn., however, vehemently opposed the proposal on the grounds that such a ban should be implemented across the state or not at all.
"We oppose any ordinance that singles out restaurants as specific targets," said Joe Linda Thompson, a lobbyist for the California Restaurant Assn., which includes 3,000 members who own or operate 10,000 restaurants statewide.
"As it is now, there are over 200 local ordinances across the state, all of them with different penalties and enforcement mechanisms, which is causing a lot of confusion on the part of restaurant customers and employees alike," Thompson said.
Braude's motion drew a mixed response from his colleagues on the council.
"I am a confirmed nonsmoker--it's a filthy habit," said Councilwoman Rita Walters, who supports the proposal. "People who need to smoke would still be able to step outside," she added.
But Councilman Richard Alatorre, one of at least two smokers on the 15-member council, said Braude's motion is too restrictive.
"Obviously, there has to be respect for people who have problems with smokers," Alatorre said. "But Braude's motion is basically unfair."