CALABASAS, Calif. – No more smoking in the park. Lighting up on the sidewalk could bring a fine. Dining on the restaurant patio? Don't bother asking for matches.
One of the strictest tobacco bans in the nation went into effect in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas last week, making smoking off limits in public places where someone else might be exposed to secondhand smoke: indoor businesses, outdoor businesses, parks, outdoor cafes, even apartment building common areas.
"We just don't want anyone blowing smoke in someone's face. Unfortunately, what smokers do is harmful to everybody else. People should have the right to breathe clean air," said Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Washburn.
California air-quality regulators declared secondhand smoke a toxic air pollutant earlier this year.
The city took it a step farther, declaring secondhand smoke to be a public nuisance and approving an ordinance banning smoking in all public places — indoors and out — where people might congregate.
Hotels can still allow smoking in up to 20 percent of their rooms, and smoking can be allowed in approved designated areas at shopping malls and work places in the upscale city of 23,000 residents.
But if a nonsmoker asks a smoker to stop, the smoker must snuff it or face a possible fine in the hundreds of dollars or even a lawsuit.
"We salute Calabasas for raising the bar," said Jim Knox, a legislative advocate for the American Cancer Society in Sacramento. "Smoke regulations can play a very important role in reducing public exposure to harmful secondhand smoke."
Nationally, hundreds of U.S. cities and several states restrict smoking. In California, where communities have been at the forefront of smoking bans, San Francisco last year banned smoking in parks and stadiums, and oceanfront communities' smoking bans have inspired others in Florida and Delaware to designate smoke-free beaches.
Among the states, Colorado lawmakers last week approved a statewide ban on smoking in most public building, and New Jersey's Smoke-Free Air Act, under fire from bar owners because it exempts casino gambling floors, goes into effect April 15.