Newport Beach : Anti-Smoking Ordinance Passes Despite Objection
Swiftly and with little fanfare, Newport Beach has become the second city in Orange County to approve an ordinance that restricts smoking not only in public places but in private businesses and restaurants as well.
The unanimous City Council vote Monday came after a brief public hearing in which a representative of the Newport Beach Restaurant Assn. protested a provision of the new law requiring eateries serving 50 or more people to set aside 25% of their floor space for non-smokers.
Ralph Kosmides, owner of two Newport Beach restaurants, said the requirement would be a nightmare for restaurant operators, who , he said, would be forced to make diners wait for seats in the smoking section while non-smoking tables were empty.
Reserving 25% of a restaurant’s floor space for non-smokers should be a voluntary guideline, not a rule, Kosmides said. “We are the ones who know our clientele best and are the most qualified to adjust the non-smoking areas in our restaurants,” he said.
The ordinance, which goes into effect July 24, will also require private businesses to post written smoking rules and prohibit smoking in an employee’s immediate work area if he requests it. If the employee’s complaints about his neighbors’ smoke persists, the business must either reassign the employee or expand the non-smoking area.
In addition, smoking will be illegal during indoor public meetings and in elevators, public restrooms, theaters and auditoriums.
Under the new ordinance, offenders can be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for each successive violation within a single year.
Before the vote, Mayor Pro-Tem Ruthelyn Plummer noted that none of the city’s council members smoke, something that made passing the ordinance appealing. “It’s really hard for us not to pass this,” she remarked.
Newport Beach’s anti-smoking law comes on the heels of two similar ordinances, one enacted last February in Laguna Beach and one approved earlier this month by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Although the county law regulates smoking only in county-owned and county-leased buildings, the Laguna Beach ordinance, like Newport Beach’s, affects private workplaces and restaurants.
Currently, several other county cities, including Brea, Orange and Irvine, are considering similar ordinances.