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Long Beach Loosens Antismoking Law

Alejandro Benes
Posted: February 18, 2009

After a week's worth of procedural delays, the Long Beach, California, city council last night confirmed its approval of lighting up in cigar and other "smoking lounges." The measure had six votes in favor and goes into effect 31 days after it is signed by the mayor.

The vote formally revises a law against smoking in public in California's sixth-largest city, but one that has been enforced rarely and usually only when a complaint has been filed. In December, the council had voted to amend the law, but to allow smoking only in cigar lounges. The city attorney had advised that this narrow application might open the city to lawsuits. The new measure expands where smoking is allowed, but leaves in place a wider ban on smoking in other public places.

The original smoking ban was enacted in 1993 and reaffirmed by voters in 1994.

At last night's meeting, one comment from a leader of an antismoking group asked for an implementation plan and regulations and mildly chastised the members for "going backwards" and overturning the will of the voters of Long Beach. The assistant city attorney said at the meeting that it would be appropriate for the council to consider regulation at another time. One council member said she would propose a plan to implement the new ordinance.

Another member of the same antismoking group tried to convince the council that cigar smoking had been "glamorized," but was as or more dangerous than cigarette smoking.

Long Beach has more than a dozen cigar and hookah lounges and tobacco shops. The new law will loosen the restrictions and let those over 18 years of age smoke in these establishments. Additionally, the new law requires smoking venues to have a separate ventilation system "such that air from the smoking lounge is exhausted directly outside and not recirculated within the building or mixed with the general dilution ventilation for the building. Windows which open to the outside shall not be deemed to comply with this provision."

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