By: Emily Pham
California is a pioneer in the development and implementation of anti-smoking legislation. In 1998, it was the first state to prohibit indoor smoking in public places to reduce secondhand smoke; more recently, the state has placed an excise tax on cigarettes and expanded smoke laws to include e-cigarettes and marijuana. Many cities in Los Angeles County have followed suit and emerged as trailblazers in secondhand smoke legislation. Their actions to curb outdoor smoking are primarily motivated by recommendations from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Surgeon General to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke as a means to reduce tobacco-related disease and death. Most notable are several ordinances passed by Beverly Hills, Huntington Park, and Calabasas.
Beverly Hills has a long-standing history of progressive public smoking laws. In 1987, Beverly Hills became the second city in the nation to ban smoking in restaurants completely. While the Beverly Hills City Council unanimously voted to pass the law, it faced significant resistance from restaurant owners who were concerned about the law’s effect on financial assets and customer retention. Though opposition to the ordinance was rejected by the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, the City Council did weaken the law to permit restaurants to provide smoking sections for up to half of their customers.
In 2007, the Beverly Hills City Council also passed the 90210 Fresh Air Ordinance, which further expanded on the 1987 legislation to prohibit smoking in outdoor dining areas. This ordinance met similar opposition from the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association, which claimed this law could disincentivize customers from eating in the area. Again, the city struck a compromise by allowing up to a quarter of hotel patio space to be designated as a smoking zone. Nonetheless, this ordinance has been well-received by restaurant patrons.
Most recently, Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse has supported a new smoking ordinance as part of her #BHHealthyCity Campaign in 2017. While a motion for a citywide ban on smoking did not receive enough councilmember support, this ordinance was supported 4-1. This ordinance further cracked down on public smoking, prohibiting people from smoking within 20 feet of outdoor dining and requiring people to be passing by to smoke on the public right of way.
Huntington Park is another city in Los Angeles County with a standing history of anti-smoking policy. Starting in 1993, local business representatives and local government members formed an advisory committee to draft an ordinance addressing secondhand smoke. This notion was motivated in particular by a report from the Environmental Protection Agency that secondhand smoke exposure causes tens of thousands of American deaths each year. This law prohibits smoking in places for recreation, service, dining, and employment. It also prohibits smoking during city community events. Huntington Park’s smoking policy was influenced by a similar ordinance implemented in Laguna Hills, pointing to how model smoking legislation can inspire communities and governments to create change on their terms.
Manhattan Beach is also notable for its stringent outdoor smoking laws. Cooperating with Beach Cities Health District, Behavioral Health Services, and the Surfrider Foundation, the Manhattan Beach City staff were able to collect community opinions on outdoor smoking regulations. The results of the data collection allowed the Manhattan Beach City Council to develop and unanimously vote upon Manhattan Beach’s Outdoor Public Places Smoke-Free Ordinance in 2014. This ordinance prohibited the public smoking of cigarettes and e-cigarettes, limiting them to private residential property, moving vehicles, and designated rooms in hotels and motels. In 2015, another ordinance was passed 3-2 by the Manhattan Beach City Council to prohibit smoking within the common and outdoor areas of apartment and condominium complexes.
California and these cities have received some of the top grades from the State of Tobacco Control’s reports on tobacco control and smoke-free outdoor air. They have thus established themselves as models for other states and municipalities to look to when implementing their respective progressive smoking legislation. However, despite clear progress and progressiveness in tobacco ordinances, smoking policy and enforcement must continue to be developed, assessed, and revised to limit secondhand smoke exposure and tobacco use further.
In an effort to push for progress in limiting secondhand smoke exposure in outdoor areas, APIFM is currently working with neighboring communities in LA County to spread awareness on the dangers of secondhand smoke from tobacco use. APIFM actively engages with local residents to assess community need through survey collection and strives to empower community members by amplifying their voices and advocating on their behalf. For more information about APIFM’s tobacco prevention work, please visit our newly created webpage here.