If you are a Los Angeles resident, and a smoker, your habit might get a little harder to enjoy. On Tuesday, the city's smoke-free outdoor dining ordinance will take effect, banning you from lighting up within 10 feet of any outdoor dining area or within 40 feet of mobile food vendors and food kiosks.
If you do happen to stray into one of these danger zones with lit cigarette in hand, prepare to face a fine ranging anywhere from $250 to $500. The same policy enforcer who would fine you could also levee fines for noncompliance against the establishment whose air you unwittingly sullied. And don't expect your fellow Angelenos to be very sympathetic about your new-found plight as an outlaw – polls indicate most are behind the measure.
The Los Angeles City Council approved the smoke-free dining ordinance by a unanimous vote in January of last year. Businesses were immediately granted a grace period to inform their clientele about the new rules by posting signage. On Thursday, residents were acquainted with a public education campaign that included radio announcements, online advertisements, transit ads and plenty of signs.
"The City of Los Angeles continues to set the pace for healthy living. Angelenos already enjoy smoke-free parks, beaches and farmers' markets and now they will be able to enjoy all the wonderful outdoor dining that L.A. has to offer without exposure to toxic secondhand smoke," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a news conference announcing the new rules.
So, if restaurant operators are OK with it, if 93 percent of Californians want to be in a smoke-free environment (according to the American Heart Association), if the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association approves, and if the city will benefit from added revenue, is there anything to worry about? Policy makers did, after all, exempt bars and nightclubs from outdoor no-smoke zones. Aside from the occasional patron who longs for a “European experience” at his favorite eatery, the ordinance seems to be widely popular, albeit not completely understood.
Part of this misunderstanding might stem from a subconscious double-take fueled by fuzzy memories from high school history class which, ironically, offered proof that Angelenos are having a particularly European experience when they reel with psychological angst over whether or not their smoking activities will be punished by authorities.
LA Weekly Health blogger, Simone Wilson, has a good idea of what to expect from this precedent:
"If you think this ordinance is bad, just wait until the next one makes its way through City Hall: Councilman Bernard Parks wants L.A.'s no-smoking zone extended to all businesses, parks, apartment common areas and beaches. As pro-tobacco isn't such a popular political stance these days, we're guessing the rest of the council will get behind it faster than you can say "land of the free.' "