Back in January 2010, the Los Angeles City Council, in a unanimous 12-0 vote, amended Municipal Code 41.50 sections A and B to ban smoking on restaurant patios and in outside areas of other businesses that serve food. The ban, signed into action by the mayor last March, took effect immediately but was not immediately enforced. Instead, the past year has been used to educate the public and businesses, allowing a grace period to ease compliance. That grace period is now over.
The state of California already prohibits smoking inside restaurants and bars, but Los Angeles took the ban further, and as of March 8, any business with an outdoor seating area must prohibit smoking within 10 feet of those areas. Kiosks and food trucks are included in the ordinance and cannot allow smoking within 40 feet of the location. The ban does not apply to businesses that are closed to host private parties. Violators–including restaurant patrons–can be penalized with fines up to $500.
With the ban, Los Angeles becomes the largest U.S. city to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas and joins neighbors Pasadena, Santa Monica, Glendale and Beverly Hills with similar ordinances prohibiting outdoor smoking.
Around the neighborhood, residents and businesses alike seem to not be phased by the new rule. Part of the ordinance requires signs announcing the ban be clearly posted, as has done, but otherwise, few are yet to be seen in restaurant windows.
At on Sunset Boulevard, ashtrays had been removed by employees but patrons still smoked at the outdoor tables.
“I’m waiting to be told not to,” Andy Kolar explained, smoking an American Spirit while seated at a table on the sidewalk dining area.
Others questioned who was going to enforce the rule and how. “It’s a smoking neighborhood,” Jenny Pratt said. “What are they going to do? The city has money to send out people to give tickets to everyone?”
At , chef Justin Cropper explained that patrons have always been considerate of others when smoking outside, usually walking away from the outdoor tables and complying politely when asked to refrain. As for the new ordinance, Cropper expected the same cooperation. “Everybody’s been totally cool,” he said.
“Most of the people I talk to see it as another incentive to quit,” Mohammed El Aman, a neighborhood diner who also works as a waiter said. “The ones who are going to have a problem are the ones who already try to hide their cigarettes under the table as though I can’t smell it.” El Aman also noted that having a smoke-free workplace was something he was looking forward to.
Lisa Barron, seated at an outdoor table at Local with her daughter in a stroller, supports the ban because it helps protect kids from second-hand smoke. “People aren’t always aware that they are smoking near kids or they don’t care,” she said.
"Smoke-free outdoor dining is good for health, good for business," said Paul Knepprath, Vice President of Advocacy and Health Initiatives for the American Lung Association in California, via email, "The growing trend toward smoke-free outdoor dining is positive as more cities and counties embrace local ordinances to keep dining spaces clear of harmful secondhand smoke."
As an ex-smoker, Matt Hall was supportive of the ban. “I feel sick when I smell smoke now,” he said. He also noted that with most outdoor dining areas are located right on busy streets, “car exhaust is probably worse than someone’s smoke, but this is a good rule.”
According to the website Fresh Dining LA, supported by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the ban is to be self-enforced, as are other city smoking bans.