If you’re thinking about lighting up in Hermosa Beach, you may want to think again. The Hermosa Beach City Council has passed a comprehensive smoking ban that will outlaw discount Lucky Strike cigarettes in virtually every area of the city where people congregate.
Some see the ban as an attack on restaurants and bars. Others, however, including the city’s elected leaders, residents and environmental groups, hail the ban as a tool necessary to promote public health and reduce litter.
“The proposal is to limit public exposure to secondhand and thirdhand smoke in public places,” said Councilman Jeff Duclos, who has staunchly stood behind the ban since it was first discussed by the city’s governing body in January. “It is to complement existing state law and it is not unprecedented. I think that, ultimately, this council has made clean air policy a priority in this city.”
California antismoking laws prohibit lighting up inside any place of employment, including bars, restaurants and cafes.
The new Hermosa Beach smoking law complements other antismoking ordinances the city already has in place: Smoking indoors was outlawed in 1998, although at least one drinking establishment continued to permit smoking indoors. Lighting up on the beach was outlawed in May 2006.
Under the new ordinance, smoking will now be prohibited in all outdoor dining areas, Pier Plaza, the Pier and the Strand, public parks and the Greenbelt between Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue,
all public parking lots and within five feet of any outdoor dining area or city-owned building. Restaurants will also be banned from distributing match books, a long-practiced marketing trend that city officials say promotes cigarette smoking.
According to a city study, about 17 percent of adults living in Hermosa Beach smoke.
“You just don’t see (people smoking) as much as you used to,” said City Manager Steve Burrell.
The city’s new smoking ordinance is expected to go into effect March 1, 2012. Fines range from $100 to $500 and are administrative violations, rather than criminal misdemeanors or infractions, according to Burrell. After three citations, the city can file a criminal misdemeanor complaint.
Hermosa Beach Police Chief Greg Savelli, however, said that smoking complaints in the city typically are rare.
“Usually during some of the fiestas (Chamber of Commerce-sponsored biannual festivals) we get some complaints about people smoking. We’ll see compliance and tell them they can’t smoke,” Savelli said. “We don’t issue a lot of tickets.”
The City Council approved the ban Tuesday on a 4-0 vote. Councilman Kit Bobko, who opposed moving forward with the ban when it was first discussed by the council in January, left Tuesday’s meeting early because of a conflicting work schedule and did not cast a vote.
Supporters of the ban, including officials from the Beach Cities Health District and Surfrider Foundation, argued that the antismoking ordinance will promote businesses by attracting more nonsmokers to Hermosa eateries.
But Pier Plaza restaurateur Gary Vincent, who operates Fat Face Fenner’s Fish Shack and Paradise Sushi, strongly opposed the city’s new bans on smoking and single-use polystyrene food containers, saying the moves will hurt local eateries.
And in addition to the city’s new restrictions, local merchants will be facing a new business license tax structure that will likely increase fees, if one of two measures are approved in the upcoming municipal election.
“This could be the beginning of the end of a lot of businesses down there,” Vincent said. “It’s basically sending a message that if you smoke, we don’t want you coming into Hermosa Beach. It’s clear that the City Council has been going after restaurants, bars and taverns for awhile. Through ordinances, they’ve managed to constrict to a point of killing an industry.”
Vincent, whose restaurant has an outdoor patio smokers can use, said he never receives smoking complaints and is still struggling to financially recover from the recent yearlong overhaul of Pier Avenue, tighter parking regulations and two gloomy summers in a row, all of which have hurt businesses, he said.
Vincent added that also he felt it would be unjust to ask military veterans who happen to smoke that they can no longer light up at his businesses.
“I believe in public health, but I also believe in freedom of choice,” Vincent said. “With the economy the way it is, patrons are very frugal about how their dollars are being spent. They will just go somewhere else.”