Smoking would be banned at most workplaces but could continue at restaurants and bars as long as the establishment's policy is posted for customers, under a newly crafted city ordinance.
Santa Clarita City Council members worked out provisions for a new tobacco control ordinance Tuesday night and will vote on it at their May 24 session.
The proposed ordinance also bans cigarette vending machines, but allows smoking in small businesses operated away from the public and ventilated separately from other firms.
The proposed smoking ban is less restrictive than what the council approved in December but stubbed out before the law took effect. The earlier version banned smoking in all enclosed public areas, except bars that derive only one-fourth of their income from food sales.
"I just don't think we have the ability to enforce something that strict," said Councilwoman Jo Anne Darcy.
Ban supporters say people's health is at stake, while opponents say it's a question of personal freedoms and that merchants should be able to set their own smoking policies.
Council members have been flooded with data, statistics and arguments from advocates on both sides since the issue was raised late last year.
Some council members said it was hard to sift through conflicting claims, and others said they believed the issue was being driven by activists who neither live nor work in the Santa Clarita area.
"I think a significant amount of people have lied about this," said Councilman Carl Boyer. "I don't think 95% of the people in the valley give a hoot, really."
Councilman Clyde Smyth called the modified ordinance a compromise.
"I don't know (about this). I have no idea in the world with the mishmash of statistics I have seen," Smyth said. "I haven't done anything to help my friends that are bartenders or waitresses, but I think (this ordinance) is something I can live with."
Mayor George Pederson opposed the ordinance as written, calling smoking a "life-and-death" issue and urging stronger restrictions. He said nonsmoking restaurants wouldn't suffer because customers go for good food and service and not for their smoking policy.
If approved, the ordinance will take effect in mid-July.
Santa Clarita's draft ordinance came one day after the Philip Morris tobacco company announced it had enough signatures to create a California ballot measure abolishing local smoking bans.
City leaders were concerned that a stronger ban might trigger costs for Santa Clarita businesses, only to then be repealed.