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Calif. city imposes landmark second-hand smoke law

Written by: Staff

CALABASAS, Calif., Mar 16 (Reuters) It's already banned in California offices, restaurants and on miles of beaches, but on Friday the rural city of Calabasas goes a step further.

The town has enacted the first law in the United States banning smoking on streets, at bus stops and in all other public places where people can be exposed to second-hand smoke.

''People have a right to breathe clean air. It is time to stand up to the challenges, the critics and to tobacco interests,'' Calabasas Mayor Barry Groveman told a news conference yesterday.

The law passed unanimously last month by the city council in the affluent canyon community of 21,000 people northwest of Los Angeles.

The ban means an end to smokers huddling outside the entrances of offices, lighting up on outdoor restaurant patios, or puffing on their apartment balconies if they are near common areas such as pools or laundry rooms.

From Friday, smokers will be asked to go to designated areas, or will be handed small cards outlining the new law. Persistent offenders risk fines of up to 500 dollar.

''We don't anticipate any problems with compliance. We are hearing nothing but positive comments,'' said Groveman, adding he hoped other U.S. cities would follow the lead of Calabasas.

Supported by the American Cancer Society, Heart Association and Lung Association, the Calabasas ordinance follows a landmark January decision by the California Air Resources Board to classify second-hand tobacco smoke as a ''toxic air contaminant''.

Health officials say a series of California laws dating back 10 years that banned smoking inside restaurants, bars and in the workplace are not enough to protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

San Francisco already prohibits smoking in parks and Los Angeles and Malibu last year cracked down on the habit on more than 40 miles (65 km) of beaches.

California's environmental health office estimates that as many as 5,500 nonsmoking Californians die annually of heart disease related to second-hand smoke, and as many as 1,100 from lung cancer.

''Having a smoking area in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool,'' said Dr. Thomas Pfeffer of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles.


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