The Los Angeles City Council unanimously directed its attorneys Wednesday to prepare an ordinance that would ban smoking in "all public areas and common areas where people congregate."
Councilman Bernard Parks said the idea is not to ban smoking, but regulate where it can be done.
"I think you go down a path that you can't recover from (when you begin) talking about banning smoking because I think that's an individual decision, but we can protect people who have no desire to smell smoke," Parks said.
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He expects the proposed ordinance to be ready for final approval sometime next year.
Smoking is already banned in restaurants and other public places, such as parks and beaches.
In Parks' motion -- approved 13-0 Wednesday -- the councilman called for a comprehensive and citywide ordinance that would ban smoking in "all public areas and common areas where people congregate, including, but not limited to, indoor and outdoor businesses, hotels, parks, apartment common areas, restaurants and bars, and beaches."
Parks added, "We need to implement legislation to regulate cigarette smoking by limiting it to specific places where there is no expectation of involuntary contact with people -- wherever people congregate or there is an expectation of people being present, (then) smoking should be prohibited."
Vanessa Peterson with the American Lung Association told the council that tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease in California, and that more than 60,000 Americans exposed to second-hand smoke die each year.
A study prepared by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department showed about 1 million smokers countywide and about 435,000 in the city.
The same study estimated that tobacco-related diseases cost the county $4.3 billion a year.
Parks said smoking is a voluntary addiction and not a right protected by the Constitution, "yet secondhand smoke harms an involuntary population which has a right to clean air and a clean environment and which is protected by many public health laws."
Monty Messex, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Tobacco Control and Prevention Program, said second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous.
"There is some data that shows that it is worse for you because the second hand smoke that people breathe is from the end of the cigarette, and also being exhaled," he said. "Second-hand smoke that's breathed by a person who's not smoking has been cooled and sometimes will be breathed deeper into their lungs."
Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Calabasas have already enacted ordinances similar the one being proposed by Parks.
Calabasas Mayor Barry Groveman testified Wednesday that his city's ordinance is "nothing that stops people from smoking -- it's only designed to stop the second-hand smoke exposure to people who don't want to face the consequences of second-hand smoke."
"It's no different than stopping people from firing weapons, or having bullets land on people," Groveman added. "We have a right to use police power to protect people."