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Public smoking ordinance unrealistic for La Verne
Posted March 6, 2006

Andres Rivera
Web Editor

With the concern over second-hand smoke increasing as further research is done, cities like Calabasas and Palo Alto in California have opted to pass ordinances restricting smoking in public areas. Though these cities feel that passing these ordinances will help calm the spread of second-hand smoke, cities like La Verne do not believe ordinances are needed.

California is one of at least five states that have passed restrictions on smoking. Cities have decided to become more aware of smoking as reports reveal that 440,000 people die from tobacco-related diseases every year in the United States.

“Smoking has changed dramatically. There was a time where smoking was allowed in airplanes and restaurants — it’s a wonderful change,” La Verne Mayor Jon Blickenstaff said.

Calabasas made news when it passed its “Comprehensive Second-Hand Smoke Control Ordinance” in early February after months of reviewing second-hand smoke research and conducting surveys within its community of 30,000.

The ordinance states that a person may smoke in public as long as the person is a reasonable distance away from the non-smoking public, said spokesman for the city of Calabasas Michael Hafken.

Lois Carlson, a La Verne resident, approves of cities prohibiting smoking in public areas. When it comes to La Verne, however, Carlson does not believe an ordinance is necessary.

"I haven't seen that many smokers around," Carlson said. "La Verne seems a lot more spacious."

Carlson's sister, Ruth visiting from St. Paul, Minn. is also seeing changes in her area.

"We have just passed a law prohibiting smoking in restaurants and bars," she said. "I can see why people smoke and drink, but the people that work there — we need to start thinking about them."

Hafken asserts that the city has not banned smoking. The ordinance restricts the places where smokers can smoke, not smoking in general.

“If you want to smoke on your sidewalk at three in the morning, you can as long as there is no expectation of others being there,” Hafken said.

The city will provide a one-square foot for every 20,000 square feet of shopping area as a smoking zone. Businesses will also be encouraged to designate their own smoking areas as well.

“Penalties range from a warning to a moderate fine,” Hafken said.

Since the city is taking an educational approach in the early stages of enforcement, penalties will probably be warnings, Hafken said.

The city of Calabasas has been contacted by other cities that are interested in passing a similar ordinance. One of the interested cities is Santa Monica.

While Santa Monica is leaning towards passing a second-hand smoking ordinance, La Verne believes there is no need for further legislation.

“I believe the state has adequately addressed the issue in our area,” Blickenstaff said.

Without the need for an ordinance, La Verne handles smokers in public areas similar to Calabasas. During the concert in the park series held at Heritage Park, smoking areas are positioned away from the main crowds. The same procedure is performed during the fireworks show for the Fourth of July celebration at the Bonita High School stadium.

“We haven’t heard any complaints in areas of public gathering,” Blickenstaff said.

Some students, like senior communications major Christina Oseguera-Perez, will side with Carlson in that cities should protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.

“It’s a good idea if it bothers people,” Oseguera-Perez said. 

Others believe that La Verne should have some type of ordinance that will restrict smoking in public areas for more than just courtesy reasons.

“I think it’s a good idea because I don’t like to smoke,” said freshman psychology major Whitney Brown. “I’m allergic; it gets me sick. Why should everyone else be exposed?”

Research has concluded that people with asthma have a greater risk of triggering an asthma attack when smoke is present. While enacting an ordinance may seem drastic to some, cities are at the very least acknowledging the risks.

“Every time I come out of a building, there is always a group of people smoking,” said Jackie Cervantes, a freshman liberal studies major. “I think they should pass one, but I don’t know if they would.”

Andres Rivera can be reached at arivera3@ulv.edu.