Don’t Smoke on my Food, West Hollywood

On February 7, 2011 a Draft Ordinance will be presented at the West Hollywood City Council to create smoke-free environments on outdoor patios where food is served.  Click here to read the Draft Ordinance.   A few facts to get us quickly up to date:

  1. This item came before the Council in December of 2009 and will not go into affect until January 2012.
  2. The original intention was to create healthier environments decreasing the public’s exposure to second-hand smoke by prohibiting smoking on all outdoor patios.
  3. A Task Force was formed to give input on how this would affect businesses and provided an open forum for public comment.
  4. After months of meetings and having a draft reviewed by the council the new ordinance would now be for restaurants only and allow some restaurant/bar hybrids to create plans to limit smoking during certain hours.
  5. Eleven designated establishments will have until October 1st to present a plan provide a plan where they would be able to offer smoking.
  6. Bars and Nightclubs would be EXEMPT from this ordinance.
  7. There will be an education campaign created to awareness of the dangers of smoking and to offer smoking cessation options.

Here’s what I know.

  1. The Surgeon General recently released a report titled: The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.  The report included the line, there is no safe level of smoking, not even one per day.  (This is where the smoke advocates will say, don’t be around it)
  2. A recent LA Times article showed that only 13% of Californians smoke as compared to 21% across the country.  The article goes on the say that CA has lead the nation in policy shifts to decrease smoking.  (This is where smoke advocates say that WeHo is unique and should not be like other place.)
  3. Smoking advocates demand their right to smoke but would like to take away others’ right to enjoy an outdoor patio. (This is often where they bring up the smog and other pollutants in the air.)
  4. Business and Smoking Advocates fear that patrons will go elsewhere but don’t take into account that the city of LA will have a similar ordinance in effect beginning in  March of this year.  Beverly Hills already has an ordinance and some businesses here have already begun this with no negative effect.  (And I argue, WeHo is still unique and we have not only survived the horrible economy, in some areas we have thrived)
  5. An education campaign is great and needed.  It will not, however, change everyone’s behavior.  People still text and drive, don’t pick up after their dog’s and leave their valuables unsecured in cars, in bars, and in their shopping carts.
  6. Allowing a year for education and preparing is unnecessary.  The original indoor smoking ordinance took effect within 75 days and WeHo was unscathed.  There has already been a lot of publicity about this since it first came from council in Dec, 2009.  A health hazard doesn’t stall for a year.
  7. 5 feet buffer zone is not enough.  Not nearly enough.  Just walk 15 or 20 feet behind a smoker.
  8. I have lightened my personal position on this somewhat.  I went in agreeing that this needed to be a city wide, bar-nightclub included ordinance.  Having the opportunity to go through the process I do think that, as much as I don’t like it, as long as there is no food service, allow the bars-nightclub, for now, to offer a smoking patio.  The advocates for no new ordinance have not budged as has everyone else.
  9. If you can wait out a 2, 3, 6, 10 hour plane ride without a cigarette, why can’t you wait out the length of a meal?
  10. Smoking kills.  Second-hand smoke is dangerous.  Enjoying a meal outside is a wonderful thing.

Please let the council know your position on this important community issue.

I am sure to take some hits here and that’s okay.  What I know for sure is I barely leave the city and I barely drive.  I support the local economy and the some.  I support cleaner air by sharing a vehicle with my partner and walking to most places.  I understand that we have a healthy night life and rely on it but I also know that of the 38,000 or so residents that live here rely on the council to balance that with neighborhood livability.  I’m Sam Borelli and I wrote this post.

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