California City Approves Outdoor Smoking Ban

Melanie Hunter | Senior Editor | Thursday, February 2, 2006

California City Approves Outdoor Smoking Ban

( - The city of Calabasas, Calif., voted unanimously Wednesday night to ban smoking in all outdoor places, including sidewalks and streets, except for small outdoor "smoker outposts."

The "smoker outposts" would be established by businesses in areas like parking lots. Smokers can also smoke when no one else is around or expected. The ban is considered the most sweeping ban of any U.S. jurisdiction.

The city council approved the smoking ban to protect children from second-hand smoke, reduce "the potential for children to associate smoking and tobacco with a healthy lifestyle," protect "the public from smoking and tobacco-related litter and pollution," and affirm and promote "the family-friendly atmosphere" of Calabasas' "public places."

Action of Smoking and Health (ASH), an anti-smoking group, which supports the "Second-Hand Smoke Control Ordinance," first started the "nonsmokers' rights movement and then helped it move outdoors."

"Every court which has ever addressed the issue has held that there is no legal right to smoke, regardless of the location," said public interest law professor John Banzhaf, executive director of ASH. He cited such cases to the city council to convince them that an outdoor smoking ban was legal.

The city council agreed and voted to amend the proposed ordinance to establish a legal right of nonsmokers to be protected from secondhand smoke.

Banzhaf also noted that in at least 18 states, courts did not hesitate to ban smoking within a private car or residence where it was considered necessary to protect the health of kids, usually those involved in a divorce and custody dispute. At least four states have prohibited smoking in a private vehicle or home when foster kids are present, he said.

"If it is constitutional in all of these states for the government to prohibit smoking even within a private home, it is certainly constitutional for it to prohibit smoking outdoors on public sidewalks and streets, and on outdoor business property used at patios, lounges, parking lots, etc.," Banzhaf added.

Even though the law bans smoking in restaurants' outdoor smoking lounges and patios, the ordinance was supported by the California Restaurant Association and the local restaurant association. Twenty citizens testified in favor of the ordinance at the legislative hearing, and not one business owner appeared at the hearing to object, ASH said.

The outdoor smoking ban goes into effect within 30 days of the second reading.

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