Friday, March 6, 2009

Sierra Madre Can Handle This Smoking Issue Without Having to Legislate It

With a Little Consideration and Civility Toward Each Other and Respect for Each Other's Rights, Sierra Madre Can Handle This Smoking Issue Without Having to Legislate It
First, let me say that I’m writing this editorial as a 15-year resident of Sierra Madre and publisher of SierraMadreNews.Net. The opinions you will read here are my opinions, and they are not intended to be representative of the Chamber of Commerce, its Board of Directors, or its members. Obviously, as president of the Chamber, I am going to be in contact with Chamber members and the Board, and their comments and opinions and my discussions with them may shape my opinions. But what you are reading here is not written on behalf of the Chamber, nor does it represent a position being taken by the Chamber. The Chamber has not taken a position on this issue, despite what you may read elsewhere. The Chamber has polled downtown businesses that would be affected, and will present a report to the City with its findings. Let me also state here that I am a non-smoker, though a couple times a year on a special occasion I may enjoy a cigar in the evening, always outside.

When I first heard about the proposed smoking restrictions for outside dining areas in Sierra Madre, my first reaction was that as President of the Chamber, it is my job to bring customers into Sierra Madre businesses, not restrict them. I was flat out against it. However, I’m only one person in an organization with well over one hundred members, and I recognized that my opinion was my opinion only, and that more input was needed. I did, however, join the Facebook group “Stop the Sierra Madre Smoking Ban.”

I was contacted by City Manager Elaine Aguilar to see if the Chamber could help facilitate a meeting with restaurant owners that would be affected by the restrictions so that their input could be solicited and made a part of the staff report to the City Council. I contacted every restaurant business, most by e-mail, and some by phone, leaving messages for a couple of them that weren’t in when I called.

Over the next couple days, I did a little research, and discovered there are reports out there that state that some city’s that had enacted bans had not reflected a decrease in business due to the ban. There are, I believe, obvious health issues involved here, as well, though I’ll discuss that a little later. And I also was considering the possibility that businesses might see an increase in non-smoking customers that have stayed away when smoking was allowed, maybe enough to offset the smoking customers they might lose. So as I went into the meeting with the restaurant owners, I was definitely re-thinking my original reaction, and was not really sure as I entered the meeting whether I was for or against the restriction.

First of all, let’s agree on something, this is not a ban. It’s a restriction. It restricts the rights of smokers to enjoy a cigarette, pipe or cigar when they are in an outdoor dining area. Their right to smoke at indoor dining areas was taken away in the 1990s, I believe in 1994, by statewide legislation that left every restaurant business in the state on a level playing field. You couldn't go to any restaurant in the state and smoke indoors. This local ordinance, however, puts the Sierra Madre restaurant industry in a position where it could lose customers to other local cities that don't have similar restrictions. I have to wonder if the restaurant owners wouldn't be within their rights, if the ordinance is approved, to file a class action lawsuit on the basis of discrimination against their particular industry. They might find support from restaurant associations with deeper pockets, and then the City would find itself in the position of defending itself in an expensive lawsuit. Don't think the City can really afford that, so I'm not sure if Council members vote for this that they are truly considering what's in the best interests of the City.

The proposed city ordinance also, however, and I think this is somewhat overlooked, restricts the rights of a business/property owner to determine what he/she will and will not allow to happen on their own property, in their own business. And in some cases, that is done without representation. Some business/property owners that will be affected by this ordinance do not live in town, so they do not even have the option of voting for or against the Council representatives that are proposing to enact this law.

According to City Manager Aguilar, members of the City Council received about a dozen complaints during the holidays regarding smoking in the downtown dining areas. Most of the complaints were from parents that didn’t like exposing their children to the smoke in the dining areas. Mayor Zimmerman took the complaints to heart, and agendized the issue for the City Council to consider. It is my understanding that at that Council meeting, about a dozen people spoke on the issue, with a ratio of about three to one opposing the restriction. One thing that amazes me about this whole thing, is that it all started because of about a dozen letters. We are a town with a population of around eleven thousand people. We have thousands of people that visit our downtown district on a monthly basis. All of these thousands of people are going to have to have their behavior legislated because of a dozen complaints? And, the City possibly becoming involved in expensive litigation over a dozen complaints? And it’s quite possible that some of those complaints came from the same people complaining more than once.

Despite the public comment opposing the restrictions, Council voted 4 – 0 to continue the discussion, and requested a draft ordinance be brought back at the March 10th meeting (since postponed till the meeting of the 24th of March), with instructions to solicit input from the business owners that would be affected. Thus, the Chamber was contacted and the meeting with restaurant owners was arranged.

But the fact of the matter is that it is not just the restaurant owners that will be affected by the restrictions, all the downtown businesses will be. If smokers are prohibited from lighting up in the outside dining areas, it’s not going to stop them from smoking. It’s just going to change where they can do it. We’re not eliminating the health issue, just moving it next door. Dining areas that now have ashtrays will no longer have them. So a smoker will get up from the dining area, move next door or down the street, in front of a retail establishment, enjoy their cigarette, and then have no place to put it out, except the sidewalk or the street. So now, the non-restaurant businesses, particularly those closest to restaurants with outside dining, are going to find that their customers are going to have to walk through the smokers to get into their establishments (which already happens, to some extent, as business employees that smoke are required to go outside to light up). And if you figure that some smokers will go to the left of the dining area, and some will go the right, you now have two businesses with folks standing and smoking on the sidewalk that are being effected, not just the one dining establishment. And as I said, our sidewalks and streets will now be littered with all the cigarette butts that are now being put out in ashtrays. I have been told by City staff that the cost of cleaning up this litter can be quite prohibitive, so that’s another thing to consider. The City is broke, and now we are going to increase its maintenance expenses during an economic downturn?

Arcadia and Monrovia do not have smoking bans, despite, due to higher populations and busier business districts, far more smokers than Sierra Madre has. Is our business district, in this poor economy, healthy enough to take the financial hit it will almost undoubtedly take if a significant portion of its already limited customer base decides that we’ve legislated them to a point where they’d rather do business in other cities?

As to the health issue, when the state law was passed banning indoor smoking, it was done to protect folks (restaurant workers in particular) who worked indoors where a procession of people smoked and the workers were exposed to constant inhalation of carcinogens. I am not aware of any studies that state that people sitting at tables that are usually several feet from each other at occasional visits to places where smoking is allowed outdoors have suffered health-wise for having done so. Doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, just means I haven’t seen them. But the fact of the matter is, people smoke in front of other businesses, too, and that will happen even more so if a dining area restriction goes into effect. So what’s next, in a year, people unhappy about the increased smoking outside non-dining areas complain, and a new ordinance is proposed to ban smoking inside or out in the entire downtown area? And why stop there? Parents strolling their children through their neighborhood certainly pass neighbors in their yard enjoying a cigarette, or working in their garden, the smoke wafting onto the sidewalk, right at stroller level. I spoke a couple days ago with a woman who told me that her neighbor exits his house when he wants a smoke, and goes into his driveway. Very considerate of his family. Unfortunately, his driveway is right next to her bedroom window, and she is very sensitive to smoke. Will we ban smoking outdoors in residential neighborhoods? If we do, parents that currently go outside to smoke to protect their children’s lungs will be forced back inside to conform to the law.

I saw somewhere that 700 U.S. communities have enacted outdoor smoking bans or restrictions, most of them cities with much higher populations. How many tens of thousands of cities are there in this country? Seven hundred is a very small percentage. Why does Sierra Madre, a “friendly” little village, need to follow the path of the big cities? Do we want to be Pasadena? Aren’t we proud of our unique small-town status? Aren’t we “friendly” enough to be considerate of others without actually enacting a law to legislate this?

Who’s going to enforce this law? What if someone lights up downtown, and the police are called? They hurry on down to the place where it’s happening, but by then the cigarette has been put out. What if four people do it at the same time, in different establishments? Are our police going to be run ragged trying to enforce the smoking law, most times a futile effort?

While I am sensitive to the concerns of those with health issues, and parents who are trying to protect their children, I just can’t get behind the proposed restrictions. People complained about shock jocks and their crass behavior on the radio, and the argument was, well, change the station, or you have an on/off switch. Non-smokers can change the station or on/off switches (eat indoors, or go to restaurants that have non-smoking sections in their outdoor dining area). Most, though admittedly not all, smokers are considerate of non-smokers and will be happy to move away while smoking, or put it out until you’ve left, if they are asked politely.

Now that the issue has been raised, I think restaurant owners are more sensitive about it, and some will most likely, if their outdoor dining area is large enough, offer non-smoking sections. Some that have smaller outdoor dining areas may ban smoking voluntarily, though since their dining areas are often not on their property (they are on public right of way sidewalks) they can’t always enforce it. But I think that with a little voluntary effort on the part of restaurant owners, and some consideration and civility toward one another, by both smokers and non-smokers, of the other’s rights (they both have them, after all), it should be possible to live and let live, as has been Sierra Madre’s behavior for more than one hundred years, without legislating our neighbors’ and friends’ behavior.


  1. Bill,

    Your opposition to the smoking ban is quite normal. The city of Glendale -Chamber experienced a similar opposition - but now they are the ones educating the public.I've included this recent article that is self explanatory. Keep in mind Malibu is a city with a population of 13,000. Thank for reading.

    City receives 'F' grade for smoking policies
    By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
    Wednesday, January 21, 2009 1:51 PM PST
    The American Lung Association recently released its seventh annual state "report card" assessing the overall tobacco control grade for major Californian cities and Malibu scored an "F."

    The report assesses each state's efforts in four key tobacco control policy areas. Statewide, California earned an "A" for its smoke-free air laws, a "D" for its cigarette tax rate, an "F" for tobacco prevention and control program funding, and a "D" for insurance coverage of cessation treatments and services.

    When broken down into individual municipalities, however, Malibu scored an "F" for overall tobacco control, a "D" for smokefree outdoor air, an "F" for smokefree housing and another "F" for reducing sales of tobacco products.

    The only California city that received an "A" rating was Glendale, which last year passed a city ordinance banning smoking in any public places except the street or sidewalk several yards away from bus stops or sidewalk dining areas. Disposing of cigarettes in any public place is prohibited as well.

    Malibu Public Safety Commissioner Susan Tellem said she would present a proposal before the city council as early as next month to emulate Glendale's ordinance.

    "This is a health and fire safety issue," Tellem said. "I've been to Starbucks and had to leave the outdoor seating area because of the amount of smoke there. And people are always tossing cigarettes out of their cars. Considering the fire danger Malibu faces, this ordinance is vital to public safety."

    Indeed, the January 2007 fire that sparked at Bluffs Park was probably started by a tossed cigarette from a passing car, Detective Jim Gonzalez, of the county Sheriff's Department, said.

    Tellem noted she had been forced to ask Verizon employees working on telephone lines up in the driest hills of Malibu to snuff their cigarettes during the height of fire season. She said she didn't expect to hear too much backlash from businesses, with restaurants already banning smoking on premises.

    Tatiana Ennist, assistant manager at the Cross Creek Starbucks, said that smoking is not encouraged in their outdoor seating area.

    "We don't put out ashtrays," Ennist said. "We always have to sweep up butts at the end of the day. I don't think it [banning smoking] will affect business because people always need their coffee."

    With the dangers of second hand smoke becoming more widely known, more and more municipalities across the nation have been issuing total bans on smoking in public places, including outdoor restaurants, parks, city golf courses and other outdoor sports venues. In some cities, the results of smoking bans have been dramatic.

    Paul G. Billings is the vice president of national policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association. He said you couldn't argue with the statistics.

    "After a city ordinance to completely ban smoking in public in Pueblo, Colo., the incidence of heart attacks dropped 27 percent in the first year of operation and 40 percent by the second year," Billings said. "Helena, Montana saw a 40 percent reduction after going smoke free and Bloomington, Indiana dropped 29 percent. So, it's not just a bi-coastal phenomenon. Mid-America is catching on, too. But it's only after a long-fought campaign to educate public officials."

    Many antigovernment organizations have protested the bans, claiming that local tax revenues are affected by slumps in sales when restaurants and bars ban smoking.

    "Well, second hand smoke affects the health of others," Billings said. "One's constitutional right to throw a punch ends at the tip of someone else's nose."

    Steven Koszis, administrative analyst for the City of Glendale, disputed the argument of lost revenue after smoking bans.

    "Actually, apartment owners probably see lower turnover costs and lower fire insurance premiums when smoking is banned in their buildings," Koszis said. "Beverly Hills released a study that showed an increase in business tax revenue in 100 out of 300 restaurants after a ban was imposed. And that was even during the writers' strike."

    Koszis said the key to effective implementation of such an ordinance is appropriate public education, giving plenty of time for residents and visitors to absorb the lessons and practical aspects of such a ban.

    "The Chamber of Commerce was opposed to an outright ban at first," Koszis said. "But we worked with them during the writing of the ordinance and they came on board. Now, they're helping to educate the public.

    "Our goal is compliance, not to make our citizens a bunch of criminals," Koszis continued. "There are eight enforcement interactions, including verbal warnings and small citations, before you are cited for a misdemeanor."

    Tellem, who was a smoker until forced to give up the habit for health reasons, said that it was important to have an ordinance with "teeth," noting that Malibu's 2006 ban on beach smoking has seen mixed compliance.

    "A draft proposal for the ordinance has already been written, so the city council as a whole should be in favor of it," Tellem said. "But one issue might be that they have too much on their plate right now. But speaking as Public Safety Commissioner, it is high time for this ordinance."

    The American Lung Association of California's report can be viewed online at

  2. Thanks, Sharon, that's definitely food for thought. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I'm curious as to whether the 200 out of 300 restaurants that did not show an increase in tax revenue mostly broke even, or were negative, or what. Of course with the writer's strike going on at the time, the negative numbers might not be reflective of what would have happened if the strike wasn't happening, there may have been far more than 100 that showed increased revenue. Just as the numbers in any study of the effects on Sierra Madre if an ordinance is passed will not be reflective of what would have happened to our downtown district if we were in a healthy economy. The heart attack statistics are eye opening. I also appreciate the comment about not criminalizing the residents. And the eight levels of interaction prior to misdemeanor citation seems like a positive reflection of that attitude, though I don't know what level of infraction will be called for in the draft Sierra Madre ordinance that is being prepared. I appreciate your participation in this discussion.

  3. You're still a little vague on the cancer issue, Bill. I thought your attempt at tap dancing around that one ("I am not aware of any studies ...") was particularly, um, delicate. How can a fellow of your obvious learning not be up on the many studies linking cancer to second hand smoke? And, even more troubling, how could you post an editorial without at least looking into that issue? I mean, they teach that stuff to school children these days.

  4. The biggest irony of all is that below your letter there is a letter to the editor regarding the use of a cigar float in the 4th of July parade..written by 3 Phd's from the City of Hope, let me paraphase:
    "What a great opportunity the Sierra Madre 4th of July parade provides to teach our children about the serious health effects of tobacco use, by redesigning the cigar float to depict persons with, for example, a tracheotomy and difficulty breathing/walking, black lungs, heart disease, etc. rather than what appears to be cigar smoking as an acceptable behavior. Perhaps the city float planners are unaware that a single cigar can contain as much tobacco as a pack of cigarettes and the second-hand smoking effect is as strong, if not stronger, than that of cigarettes"
    Still want that cigar, Bill?

  5. Bill,

    Here is the link to the Beverly Hill's press release regarding their fourth quarter sales. "Assessment of non-smoking ordinance reveals positive consumer and business response"

    Hope that answers some of your questions regarding the restaurants in Beverly Hills.

  6. To He:
    I'm not sure I danced around that issue, or that I'm particularly vague. Paragraph 4 - "There are, I believe, obvious health issues..." Paragraph 11- "As to the health issue...workers were exposed to constant inhalation of carcinogens." Constant inhalation of carcinogens...I think I acknowledge the cancer causing effects of smoking. I'm just not sure I'm convinced that occasionally sitting in an outdoor dining area is as dangerous as working all day long in a closed environment. As to posting an editorial without looking into the issue, I'll give you that I maybe should have done more research, but I won't give you that I didn't look into it at all. I looked at a article about a Stanford report. I should have looked further. But I did find this part of that article interesting, probably because I was hearing what I wanted to hear: "For example, if you're at a sidewalk café, and you sit within 18 inches of a person who smokes two cigarettes over the course of an hour, your exposure to secondhand smoke could be the same as if you sat one hour inside a tavern with smokers. Based on our findings, a child in close proximity to adult smokers at a backyard party also could receive substantial exposure to secondhand smoke," he added.

    Unlike indoor tobacco smoke, which can persist for hours, the researchers found that outdoor smoke disappears rapidly when a cigarette is extinguished.

    "Our data also show that if you move about six feet away from an outdoor smoker, your exposure levels are much lower," Klepeis added.

    For the record - I agree that smoking is a health issue, including second hand smoke. I could and probably should have done more research before posting my opinion. Still not convinced smoking in an outdoor dining area is dangerous enough that we have to make laws about it. Common courtesy should be enough. Yes, there may be occasional instances where people don't comply and it doesn't go as smoothly as we would like it to. Doesn't mean we need to legislate it.

  7. To anonymous: I agree, the timing on that letter to the editor was interesting. I received it a couple days ago, but it wasn't referenced as a letter to the editor, so I contacted the writer to confirm it was to be posted. The response came back yes, but two more signatures were added. I think the stogiemen have a right to their float, and City of Hope has a right to do their own. I suggested to the writer that City of Hope might do a float for this year's 4th of July parade, but was told they do a float with the City of Duarte in the Rose Parade. And physicians that want to write a letter to the editor have a right to see that letter in print, even if they'd probably like a smoking restriction ordinance and I wouldn't. (So there's no misunderstanding, I have not asked for nor have I received comment from the physicians regarding their position on the smoking ordinance.)

  8. To Sharon:

    Thanks for the link. The Beverly Hills report at that link is one of the reports I referenced in paragraph 4. I read that page, but did not click through to the Beverly Hills website, which the article states has more information about fresh air dining. When I have some time, I will take a look at that.

    BTW, you gonna win the race again this year? I assume you're running?

  9. I wonder how Joe Mosca will vote on this. As a candidate possibly running for reelection in 2010, I'm not sure that he will much enjoy having to answer the questions of concerned parents as to why he voted to allow known carcinogens to be vented near their children. And should he vote against downtown smoking restrictions I am certain that there are those that will love to hang his vote around his neck like the albatross it would be.

  10. Bill,

    You stated: For the record - I agree that smoking is a health issue, including second hand smoke. I could and probably should have done more research before posting my opinion. Still not convinced smoking in an outdoor dining area is dangerous enough that we have to make laws about it. Common courtesy should be enough."

    Here's something to think about. We have 7 schools in Sierra Madre alone with over 1900 STUDENTS from preschool to eighth grade. I bet many of them head to our downtown district when school gets out for a little refreshment. Your proposal would put in place a 13 yr old asking an adult to put out his/her cigarette. I know we agree on one thing, that cigarettes are addictive. So essentially your proposal is having a non-smoker approach a smoker to put it out. Really? Consider what the American
    Lung Association has to say: "Every day approximately 4,000 children between 12 and 17 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 1,300 of them will become regular smokers.4 Half of them will ultimately die from their habit."5

    Bill, please do everyone a favor and do this issue due diligence. We are talking about our kids futures.

  11. It will be interesting to see if Bill Coburn is capable of doing the right thing. He's been shilling for the dark side for so long he might actually believe the nonsense he has written here. Time will tell.

  12. Correction: preschool to high school - not just 8th grade

  13. let's not even get started on the fact that he's president of the chamber....only in Sierra Madre

  14. I think it's telling that the issue of excessive littering is even a concern here. It is reflective of the lack of concern for the town, fellow citizens, and overall public responsibility. If I open a stick of gum and there's no garbage can where I'm standing...I find one. The fact that it's even a consideration that the city would have to increase the budget to clean up after folks who choose to smoke in public is crazy. If someone can come supplied with cigarettes & lighters...can't they carry along a recepticle for their own refuse? It tells me that it has become acceptable to some that if you smoke it's a given that it's ok to be irresponsible with your litter. If smokers who might be reloacated a few feet to smoke would find it impossible or unnecessary to dispose of their litter in a proper, respectable fashion...what makes you believe they would be open and receptive to being asked not to smoke by fellow citizens?

    I also find it distressing that it should be the non-smoker's duty to monitor the habits of the smokers. We don't have to tell dog owners not to let their animals relieve themselves where others are dining...and if they do and don't pick it up they get tickets...and animal waste doesn't even potentially cause cancer. I haven't checked Sierra Madre's city ordinances to be sure there's a "clean up after your pet" ordinance, but assume no one would protest passing one to keep the city clean in that fashion. And, if there was a suggestion that the animal waste might carry some type of toxic element...I feel certain an ordinance that creates a 'waste free zone' near restaurants would hardly be contested.

    There are plenty of things that citizens should be able to do without being policed, but when our actions affect those around us in a manner that disrupts other's ablility to sit in peace and also risks their health (even potentially risks their health - for those who somehow need more proof)I can't imagine someone in a leadership position for a city would propose letting it continue to happen.

    I have asked smokers to not smoke in my past, but only when I was in non-smoking areas. I used to wait longer to get a table in a non-smoking section and have had occasion to ask someone who lit up within it to please smoke in the smoking section....I have yet to be met with a courteous response.

    I am certain that if I did it more I would meet very polite people, but I'm of the live and let live I just go somewhere else if I can.

    I will say that when we start with the mentality that it's ok to dump litter wherever one smokes, believe that the smell of the habit should be considered someone's "right", and the potential cancer risk is out of the picture (until the exact range of contact outdoors is proven)...I am not inspired with confidence that my needs as a non-smoking consumer are very important in the deal.

    If Sierra Madre were to pass this ordinance, I would love to frequent the lovely downtown regularly!

  15. This issue shouldn't even be a debate. Second hand smoke is a public issue!

  16. Zealots! Cigars and cigarettes are an enjoyable pastime. So many people here get off on being holier-than-thou, telling other people how terrible what they're enjoying is for them.

    Unless someone's smoke is bothering you directly, mind your own business!

  17. Obviously the ultimate champion of freedom in Sierra Madre would be seen standing in front of Starbucks at 6:30 in the morning using a leaf blower and smoking a cigar.

  18. Actually, Anonymous, that's exactly the point, your smoke DOES BOTHER me! You can smoke all you want to, just not in a public place.

  19. Sharon:

    My apologies for not getting back to you sooner on this. I haven't forgotten this discussion. I have a client that had a big deadline, and of course we're in the last few days before Wistaria, so I just really haven't had the time. But I will revisit this issue when things quiet down.

  20. Would it be possible for people to forgo tobacco and begin smoking Wisteria?

  21. I have an idea....what if the smokers find a way to confine their smoke to just their space. If the only issue is that smoker's right are violated by non-smokers need to have clean air then I think confining the smoke to the smoker's air would be great! How about a lovely clear salad bowl for a helmet so they can still see where they're going...if the smoke permits. Then non-smokers can have clean air and the smokers can smoke all they want without issue. They could be sure to get the added benefit of all the excess smoke to recycle thru their lungs as well! More for the smoking buck!

  22. I am a resident of Sierra Madre. I recently heard about this matter and can't believe the ignorance surrounding this issue.

    The argument here is not to punish smokers. I smoked for 17 years and loved it. But I completely understood the effects and the health issues. The issue is not smoker's rights and business rights. The issue is a health issue.

    Exposure to secondhand smoke has been proven to cause adverse health effects including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, asthma, and ear and nasal problems. The intent and purpose of prohibiting smoking at the identified locations is to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by reducing the number of locations in Sierra Madre where exposure to secondhand smoke can occur.

    Smoking needs to be prohibited on all non-enclosed sidewalks and other pedestrian areas in Downtown Sierra Madre accessible to the general public. Smoking should especially be prohibited in all outdoor dining areas where children are present.

    If businesses want to accommodate those patrons who smoke, they should provide a smoking section located towards the back entrance to their establishment along the alley, where the general public's health will not be directly affected.

    I hope that some common sense and reason pervade the discussion here.

  23. According to the most recent smoking data for the state of California, 13.8% of adults in the golden state smoke (2nd lowest in the nation after Utah). This means that almost 87% are non-smokers, the vast majority of whom, if given a choice, would prefer a smoke-free environment when they are in public places.

    It thus should not be a surprise that an increasing number of local cities have adopted smoke-free outdoor dining policies over the past few years. There clearly is latent support for measures that create smoke-free environments for all to enjoy, smokers included.

    And while smokers may like to point out that smoking is a "lifestyle choice" like eating junk food, the fact of the matter is that unlike many other unhealthy lifestyle choices smoking directly impacts those around that person. So while you can dine next to someone stuffing themselves with bacon cheeseburgers with no negative health consequences, you can not say the same thing if you are inhaling someone's second-hand smoke.

    This might not be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the "passive" smoker (i.e. the one inhaling the SHS) breathes all the particulates and carcinogens deeper into their lungs than the active smoker. Why? Because SHS is cooler, so the body's natural reaction is not to breathe shallowly as it would were the smoke heated. This is why surgeons can tell the difference between the damaged lungs of active and passive smokers.

    Of course, all of us who live in the LA Basin are exposed to a litany of particulates thanks to diesel exhaust from the ports, trucks, and other sources, all of which have a detrimental impact on our health. While individual communities cannot tackle these problems single-handedly, they can take steps like limiting second-hand smoke exposure in public places that help reduce what the California Air Resources Board has labeled a known toxic air contaminant, second-hand smoke.

  24. This is a self policing issue. Don't folks stop at stop signs? Every time someone states that the "police" will need to get involved it's saying that smokers have a total disregard for the law. I'm going to assume that although they may not like a smoking ban, they are not law breakers...or are they?

  25. Bill,

    I look forward to it.

  26. To those who argue that non-smokers are infringing on the so-called "rights" of smokers, the FACT is there is NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO SMOKE! Also, our involuntary need to breathe air takes absolute precedence over the choice of smokers!

    The science is sound on the issue of whether second hand smoke is a danger--it is a clear danger. While the tobacco industry and some smokers might try to dispute this, the FACT is the tobacco industry has a long and storied history of deception and manipulation, and has tried to suppress credible data, even their own, that contradicts their mission of bolstering tobacco sales. Think about this—the tobacco industry at first denied that smoking was a health risk, then they began saying it was a choice. However, they have NO DEFENSE when it comes to second hand smoke; non-smokers didn’t choose to inhale these toxic fumes.

    Second hand smoke contains over 4,000 gases and fine particles, including such carcinogens as arsenic and benzene. Even most skeptics of the dangers of second hand won’t argue that smoking is dangerous. Okay, with this in mind, think about this logically--the same smoke emanating from a lit cigarette/cigar and inhaled by a smoker is a danger to the smoker, but the fumes aren’t if you’re sitting next to the smoker?

    While some smokers will not smoke around non-smokers, others simply don't care and will not cease their smoking when asked. Some will even become belligerent. An ordinance that eliminates smoking in outdoor dining areas will help increase the vitality of the 86%+ of us in CA who are non-smokers.

    If smokers wanted to give up their cigarettes/cigars and instead turn to chewing tobacco, I wouldn't say anything, as long as they properly disposed of their chewing tobacco, or if they wanted to smoke in an empty lot away from non-smokers, I wouldn’t say anything, as long as they retrieved their tobacco litter, and it didn’t pose a fire hazard. Imagine if I brought a bag of used cat liter, opened it, and placed it adjacent to smokers sitting outside the food establishments in Sierra Madre. I’m sure they would be furious and complain about the smell and say how disgusting it was, yet, this is less harmful than their second hand smoke!

    Government has an obligation to safeguard the health and safety of its citizens. This includes exposure to toxic fumes like second hand smoke.

  27. 'Freedom', statistics, governmnet obligations, children's welfare... this is really just a simple matter of decorum and self control.

    Smoking tobacco in public venues, inside or out, clearly bothers some of our citizenry. The easiest way to solve the issue is to put out spitoons so all those people who need to enjoy their right to tobacco publicly can simply chew it. That way no one else will be forced against their will to have to taste it or smell it if they don't want to.

    And everyone can go about their business.

  28. I believe that human beings usually take the path of least resistance. Sure smokers will gripe about not smoking al fresco, but I have $1,000 that says they won't be so upset they drive to another city to have their latte or chilie relleno just so they can choke down their Pall Mall with it.

  29. I agree that second hand smoke is a health issue. My position did not deny this. My position is that it is possible that this can be dealt with without passing a law to regulate it, particularly a law that I think discriminates against one industry. A law that prohibited smoking throughout the downtown district would be more likely to receive my support than the proposed law that prohibits smoking at only one particular type of business. I'm not saying I would be in favor of a blanket downtown ban either, but it would be more likely that I would support it. But then, what do we do when we have Wistaria day? Do we have to triple (or more) our law enforcement that day to try to deal with the out of town visitors that don't know that we have a non-smoking law? Same thing 4th of July, Art Fair, Dickens Village?

    I stated that we should be able to deal with this without legislating it. Sharon and Kelly have both misinterpreted my position to state that non-smokers would be responsible for policing smokers. I'm not saying that. Sure there might be instances where non-smokers would ask a smoker not to smoke near them, but I want smokers to monitor themselves and restrict their smoking to when there are no children around, no one eating near them, and when no one around them has asked them not to smoke, or if any of those conditions exist, step away to light up. But if it's 1pm, no children out of school, nobody dining nearby, in fact, nobody anywhere near a smoker, why shouldn't they be allowed to light up in front of a restaurant? Why should they have to walk over in front of a bank or a nail spa, or perhaps a doctor's office, where someone might be trying to get in the office for a check-up on their asthma or emphysema?

    The proposed ordinance as I understand it will not truly protect the health of non-smokers. It will just attempt to re-locate where their health is protected. We are not confronting the issue, we’re just shuffling it somewhere else.

    For more than ten years, I have been promoting Sierra Madre businesses. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I am taking a pro-business stance on this issue. Discussions with Sierra Madre business owners indicate to me that they are overwhelmingly against the ordinance. If I were convinced that prohibiting smoking in the downtown district was in the best interests of the business owners, I would support it. But with the economy being what it is, and many businesses struggling, I am concerned that even a temporary dip in sales caused by such an ordinance could have a severe enough negative impact to possibly cause the loss of some downtown businesses. With Provisions and Harmony Day Spa having closed in the last few weeks, I don’t really want to see more open spaces downtown.

    I know that some restaurant owners are attempting to voluntarily get their customers to not smoke when others might be affected. I hope that Council will delay action to see if perhaps this might be an acceptable solution. If it turns out that that doesn’t work, at least we may have bought enough time for the economy to be stronger, allowing the downtown businesses to be in a better position to withstand any loss they might suffer.

    Long term, I think we will probably be better off if we have an outright ban on downtown smoking. But I can’t support an ordinance that in my opinion discriminates against one industry, nor do I think the timing is right for this ordinance. After all, non-smokers still have the option of avoiding places that allow smoking. If enough of them do just that, we may see restaurants voluntarily turn their dining areas into non-smoking areas. But then it will be the business owners determining this, not legislation.

    Either way, I hope the Council will, should it choose to adopt the smoking restriction, put in place some type of monitoring of the economic effects on the downtown businesses, so that the experience in Sierra Madre can be used by other towns struggling with the matter in the future. Since very few towns across this country have enacted such laws (I read somewhere there are about 700 out of how many tens of thousands?), Sierra Madre will be a leader in this arena, so let’s be a leader and help others learn from our experience.

    BTW, it has been suggested that one way to deal with this issue without legislating it would be to impose a higher fee for tables where smoking is allowed and to reduce or eliminate fees for non-smoking tables. I like this idea. It puts the onus on the business owner to decide whether they will or will not allow smoking in their outdoor areas. Unfortunately, as I understand it, to do so would be illegal. I’m told that cities are prohibited from imposing “penalty” fees for permits and/or licensing, and that fees/permits are to be determined by what the costs are to the City for enacting/enforcing them. I haven’t confirmed that, but it is my understanding that’s the case. That’s too bad. Seems like a good solution to me.

    One last thing. I want to reiterate that this is me talking, not the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce voted at its last Board meeting to remain neutral on this issue, but to provide information to the Council regarding the position of local businesses on the issue, in order to help Council make an informed decision. A Chamber representative will present the results of a poll conducted of downtown businesses at Tuesday's meeting.

  30. Bill,

    You said: "Most, though admittedly not all, smokers are considerate of non-smokers and will be happy to move away while smoking, or put it out until you’ve left, if they are asked politely." I didn't misunderstand you -those are your words. Quite frankly if the smokers did operate in that manner - we wouldn't be having a discussion regarding this, now would we? You stated that you feel certain businesses will be discrimated against because of a proposed restriction - I'd like to ask you about the rights' of non-smokers to breath clean air.

    As far as the "new" signs at the restaurants are concerned, they don't work. I was there last week, tables are full, people are eating and two folks smoked away right UNDER your sign.

    While I understand your concern about big events for the city, Wisteria, 4 of July etc, it's all about the education. Pasadena has the Rose Parade, Glendale has the Americana, both which are huge events for their respective cities. I have the 11 page economic report for the city of Beverly Hills. They did study the economic effect for an ENTIRE year after the ban went into effect. They increased business. I'd be happy to share that as well as the studies conducted at outdoor eating establishments.

    I want you to know that of all the bans enacted on smoking NOT ONE has been recinded. That's really telling, isn't it?

    I agree, Bill, when you said: "Long term, I think we will probably be better off if we have an outright ban on downtown smoking" The time is now.

  31. BTW, so there's no confusion...I have my blog set to tell me if a comment is added to a post that is more than ten days old, so that I won't miss it if someone adds something to a post that may be old enough that I'm no longer watching it. That setting puts comments on hold until I have gone in and released them. So it's not that I'm more closely monitoring this post, it's that I'm concerned about not monitoring ANY older post closely enough.

  32. Thank you for the clearity Bill. I'm am always pleased to see something from a new light and appreciate your correction on my interpretation of your previous comments. I LOVE the idea that smokers would monitor the effects of their smoke on others all by themselves. I have not see it happen, but perhaps you have and a new day awaits. I know that it's possible in general because as a stoller mom I make sure to remove myself and my son from any public gathering if we create any disturbance that would adversely affect those around us. If, for instance, my son starts to cry or get fiesty I leave with him so as not to disturb those around me. I see that of most parents, but not all. I don't think we need an ordinance to patrol the loud children in public, but at least their crying doesn't potenially cause cancer. I doubt the smokers or non-smokers could have a very relaxed dinner if I didn't practice this courtesy. If my son makes noise...everyone is effected. If one person in a crowd lights up...everyone is also effected. Should the smoker take a survey of the area to be sure all the adults in the area are ok with the smoke before lighting up? Won't there always be someone in smoke's distance eating at any given time that would be inhaling the second hand smoke if you're near restaurants? Even if it doesn't cause cancer at a certain distance (which I suspect it does) isn't it disturbing and offensive to many just like a child's whining would be? I love the idea that we can all work together to make this happen without legislation. Either way...with or without...I hope we all respect each other's right to a pleasant, healthy experience in public places. Looking forward to enlightenment on a new day of courtesy from all.

  33. The proposed outdoor patio smoking ban is not just a grassroots effort by Sierra Madre stroller moms: it is part of a statewide step by step progressive ban program funded by taxpayer money disbursed by the California Tobacco Control Program and organized by the California Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing (, a political branch of the American Lung Association. Go to that website, click on "Community Organizing" and you will see how they manipulate your stroller moms, your community, and your city council.

    Go to, click on "Secondhand Smoke", click on "Comprehensive Secondhand Smoke Ordinance" and you will find your city's smoking ordinance already written and ready to stick under your councilmen's noses for their automatic signature. TALC is funded by taxpayer money disbursed by the California Tobacco Control Program.

    If people are taught to hate a minority, any lie about that minority will be believed and any law can be enacted against that minority. In "California Tobacco Control Update 2006", the California Tobacco Control Program states that their goal is "A Tobacco Free California". It states that "California's strategy is to create a social milieu and legal climate in which tobacco use is regarded as unacceptable -- to denormalize smoking and other tobacco use." In plain speech this means that the California Tobacco Program proposes to teach the people of California to regard the smoker a threat to society and to make him a despised pariah. This was the strategy used by the German National Socialist Party against the Jews in the 1930's: it is the strategy the California Tobacco Control Program uses today against California citizens.

    Their lies are too numerous for me to list and quote refuting experts here. Take only one "There is no safe level of second hand tobacco smoke".

    Smoke is smoke. Tobacco isn't magic. It is just another organic material. All organic combustion, like that from cigarettes, campfires, charcoal braziers and fireplaces contains carbon monoxide, methane, acrolein, benzene, tolulene, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, lead...the whole scaremongering list you have been given for tobacco smoke. In addition, the EPA estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from wood smoke (I assume because wood is a dense solid) is twelve times greater than that from an equal volume of second hand tobacco smoke (

    If there is no safe level of second hand tobacco smoke, then there is likewise no safe level of smoke from your fireplaces, your campfires, your candles, your incense burners, because it is all organic smoke and contains the same array of toxic compounds and carcinogens. Do your little girls keel over dead from toasting marshmallows?

    Why do you love the scent of smoke from a neighbor's fireplace in winter, yet complain that aromatic tobacco smoke stinks? Because you have been carefully taught. With tax funded propaganda, Californians could be taught to hate butterflies.

    Posted by jsidney, La Mesa, CA

  34. This thread continues here: At the new thread, comments will post immediately (for the first ten days). Comments on this thread, since it is more than ten days old, will have to wait until they've been released for publication.

  35. Hello, does anyone know what kind of air they breathe into their lungs on a daily basis? We live in L.A. Taking the right to smoke at a bar or while you have a cup of coffee is just plain wrong. Let's say I have a heart problem and I am sitting next to a person in a crowded place that is driving me crazy. They are drinking and I hate the smell of alcohol, they are rude and that makes my heart rate rise. What do I do? Move away or tell them they are banned from being outside because I don't like the smell of the wine etc. on their breath? Do I tell them they have to right to be near me because they are rude, and I might go into cardiac arrest? What is the difference? The reason why they banned smoking indoors was because of the 2nd hand smoke issue. That is understandable. Taking their right to smoke outdoors in designated areas is just wrong. There is no way sitting near a person who is smoking outdoors or walking by someone smoking outdoors is going to give you or your children cancer! Come On.

  36. A privately owned establishment is just that: private property. If you do not like smoke, DO NOT go to a place that allows it. Why is that so hard to comprehend? It's not really about that, now is it? It's about control and the taking away of free will from those who would like to be left alone. I'd like to open up my own privately owned restaurant that caters to smokers. Anyone who wishes to deny me that right is simply un-American, and frankly, not unlike the Nazis. The dehumanization of the Jews did not happen over night; it happened as the result of a calculated effort that built up over time and developed into a disaster. Many did not see it coming.

  37. Let us know what restaurant that is...and the other 86% of us who do not smoke ...will not go there....hopefully the 14% who do will be able to cover your expenses... good luck

  38. Dear Anonymous, please tell me that you're not equating an anti smoking law with the Nazi's racist, genocidal, holocaust. And I believe the crux of this issue is smoking OUTSIDE in PUBLIC.