The city of Calabasas adopted an ordinance on Jan. 18 that bans smoking in public places. The City Council, led by Mayor Barry Groveman, voted unanimously to prohibit smoking in public parks, hotels, bars, restaurants and even on sidewalks.
Although the details of the law are still being discussed, the framework will work like this: if an individual is smoking in a public area they can be asked by another individual to extinguish his or her cigarette, pipe or cigar. If the individual smoking refuses, the offended individual can file a written report with the city attorney’s office. The city attorney would then contact the smoker in violation of the law.
“It’s a bit much to control the smoking outdoors,” said Cassandra Jones, a non-smoking Calabasas citizen. “I’m definitely concerned about the health-risks and it’s a big-time inconvenience but as long as smoking is legal they shouldn’t be able to control smoking outdoors.”
The ordinance does provide for smokers by making “smoker outposts,” or outdoor sections for smoking. The “smoker outposts” will be established by businesses in designated areas such as parking lots.
Prior to the law being passed, the City Council identified 385 businesses in Calabasas and notified them that the ban was under consideration. But of the more than 1,200 contacts that the city made seeking input on the ban, only 43 responses were received. According to the Action of Smoking Health (ASH), 20 citizens testified in favor of the ordinance at the legislative hearing, and not one business owner appeared at the hearing to object.
This is not the first smoking ban to be passed in California or the United States. Over the past two years, smoking has been banned on most Southern California beaches, as well as Malibu beaches. Many other cities have also banned smoking in or near playgrounds and parks.
The purpose of the ordinance is to protect Calabasas residents, especially children, from the well-documented dangers of secondhand smoke. According to ASH, exposure to secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States and kills 52,000 nonsmokers each year, including 3,000 deaths from lung cancer.
Statistics show that between 4,200 and 7,440 nonsmokers in California die from heart disease each year due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
Despite the health statistics that accompany the ordinance, some Calabasas citizens feel the ban is an invasion of their basic freedoms. “If non-smokers don’t like to be around smoke they should use their freedom of choice to not go into a building where the owner allows it,” said a smoking citizen of Calabasas. “They [non-smokers] should not be allowed to push their will on others.”
But many support the new ordinance.
“Second-hand smoke is a nuisance.” said Matt Whitver, 24, a non-smoking citizen of Calabasas. Although not concerned about the health effects of second-hand smoke, Whitver is very aware of the presence and inconvenience of it. “I would definitely support a law that banned smoking,” he added.
The movement for smoking bans has seen an increase in support over the last few years. Some ordinances are even more extreme than the Calabasas ordinance. In at least 18 states, courts did not hesitate to ban smoking within a private car or residence where it was considered necessary to protect the health of kids, usually those involved in a divorce and custody dispute. Four states have prohibited smoking in a private vehicle or home when foster kids are present.
Groveman and the City Council are also discussing ordinances that would prohibit smoking in closed cars with children, and a multi-family housing smoking ban. Both ordinances are centered on the concern of second-hand smoke inhalation and children.
College campuses across the United States are also changing their tobacco policies to promote health and safe environments. In the United States, according to a report by CYAN, the California Youth Advocacy Network, at least 130 colleges and universities have already established 100 percent of their on-campus housing to be smoke-free.
At Pepperdine smoking is not permitted inside any area of any building in the residential community. Smoking is allowed in designated outdoor areas. Residents are responsible for smoking-related debris. A violation of the smoking policy is punishable by disciplinary sanctions, such as fines.
“It’s like everyone’s prejudice about people that smoke,” said Carrinicole Pittman, a smoking freshman. “We are still people, if you just tell us the smoke is bothering you, we will move.”
As the areas around Malibu and Pepperdine University establish stricter regulations concerning smoking, will Pepperdine follow the lead?
“I’m very much inconvenienced by second-hand smoke,” said Alaina Lasinski, a non-smoking sophomore. “Even with the restrictions, smoke always comes in through my windows. It’s disgusting.”
“In a sense, Pepperdine’s smoke free plazas with designated smoking areas are not too far behind the new Calabasas ‘ban,’” said Mark Davis, the dean of students at Pepperdine.
“This is clearly a hot-button issue, with some people—both at Pepperdine and the larger community—feeling passionately that we need to completely ban all smoking as a matter of conscience to prevent harm to both smokers and non-smokers alike,” Davis said.
He also said that others argue just as strongly that such bans are “over the top,” unenforceable, unnecessarily restrict people’s freedom to choose, and make Pepperdine look like “big brother.”
“Given the strong feelings on both sides and the diverse constituents that use our campus, I think Pepperdine’s current policy is a good compromise,” Davis said. At least for the short-term, Pepperdine’s smoking policy will remain unchanged.