Council Approves Smoke-Free Areas for Restaurants

Times Staff Writer

A compromise proposal aimed at requiring Los Angeles restaurant owners to designate half of their seating space for nonsmokers won preliminary approval Tuesday from a divided City Council.

With the majority decrying so-called "side-stream smoke" as a hazard to public health, the council also directed the city attorney's office to draft an ordinance that would ban smoking in retail stores and greatly restrict smoking in schools and child-care facilities, indoor sports arenas, transit terminals, libraries and other public places. The 9-4 approval came after Councilman Ernani Bernardi's motion supporting a complete ban on smoking in restaurants fell only one vote shy of consideration.

Also failing was a less restrictive proposal offered by Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores that would have simply required restaurants and retailers to post signs explaining their smoking policies.

Braude Compromise Plan

In the end, the council settled on the compromise offered by Councilman Marvin Braude, who had previously championed the city's 1983 law restricting smoking in the workplace. The action came despite objections from restaurant owners.

The draft ordinance is expected to return for debate and another council vote in about a month, Braude said. A final vote and approval from Mayor Tom Bradley would follow before the measure became law.

Braude cited the momentum of the nationwide anti-smoking crusade, most notably Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's warning that tobacco smoke is dangerous not only to smokers, but to everyone who inhales the environmental "side-stream" smoke.

"The public clamor for this kind of regulation is overwhelming," Braude told the council. "It is inevitable. It is just a matter of when. Are we going to be with the times? Or are we going to be behind the times?"

Afterwards, Braude predicted that the measure approved on Wednesday will be toughened and that by early next year Los Angeles could enact a total ban on smoking in restaurants, as the city of Beverly Hills did two weeks ago.

4 No Votes

In addition to Flores, council members John Ferraro, Richard Alatorre and Gloria Molina voted against the measure. Flores argued that the issue should be left to voluntary choice for both restaurant owners and customers, in contrast to Braude who said that posting a sign "is the position of the tobacco industry."

The proposed ordinance will apply to restaurants with more than 50 seats, "with the exception of places specializing in the sale of alcoholic beverages," such as bars and night clubs. Such specialization has not been defined. It would also ban smoking in areas normally occupied by children in all private elementary, middle and secondary schools and all private child-care facilities.

Several bowling alley operators voiced objections to the ordinance two weeks ago, but Braude on Wednesday said it would be unlikely that bowling establishments would be defined as sports arenas under the ordinance.

The ban on smoking in retail stores would be waived for stores that specialize in the sale of tobacco goods.

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