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Total Smoking Ban for Restaurants Gets OK

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A law that would ban smoking in all restaurant eating areas, one of the toughest anti-smoking laws in Southern California, was tentatively approved Tuesday night by the City Council.

The council voted 4 to 0 to direct the city staff to stiffen the city’s current ordinance, which now requires restaurants to set aside at least 60% of their space for nonsmokers. Under the new rules, smoking would be allowed only in patios and bars that are separate from eating areas.

Laguna Beach’s current smoking ordinance is the strictest in Orange County, according to a spokeswoman for the League of California Cities.

A public hearing must be held before the tougher law can be given final approval by the council.

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However, Mayor Neil G. Fitzpatrick, who has steadily pushed for tougher smoking controls since Laguna Beach became the first Orange County city to regulate smoking in restaurants, said the smoking ban is inevitable.

“It’s just a matter of whether we do it now or do it later,” Fitzpatrick said before the meeting. “It’ll be 100% no smoking in restaurants.”

The greatest concern, Fitzpatrick said, is what effect such a ban might have on city businesses when less restrictive laws govern neighboring communities.

“We’re balancing public health against the economic impact on businesses,” he said. However, he added, “I think the social pressures are such now that the negative impact would be a lot less today than when we first passed” the city’s smoking ordinance.

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While a dozen other Orange County cities have some kind of smoking restrictions on the books, no other city has banned smoking in restaurants, said Joan Hogan, League of California Cities coordinator for the California Smoke-Free Cities Project. In fact, in all of Southern California, only Bellflower has taken such action, she said.

In Northern California, however, smoking bans in restaurants are quite common, she said.

Councilwoman Martha Collison was absent from Tuesday night’s meeting.


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