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Smoke ban is facing critics

Businesses come out against parts of ban that would prevent smoking in or near outdoor dining areas.

July 28, 2008|By Jason Wells

CITY HALL — Glendale’s business community, backed by the Chamber of Commerce, could complicate the City Council’s efforts on Tuesday to adopt city-wide smoking restrictions amid fears that they would further discourage customers in an already sour economy.

It is the first organized opposition to the proposed smoking prohibitions so far for the council, which until now has been bolstered with strong support from the health community and nonsmokers.

The proposed ordinance prohibits smoking on all city property, except sidewalks, as long as the smoker is at least 20 feet away from a restricted area. Smoking in all common areas of apartment and condominium buildings and in 80% of all hotel rooms would also be disallowed.

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But it is the provisions that would ban smokers from all places of employment and accessible private property — including outdoor dining areas — that has stoked opposition from the business community, especially among some downtown restaurateurs.

The chamber’s Board of Directors voted July 8 to oppose the proposed ordinance on the grounds that it would be an undue government intrusion into the private business sector.

“Consumers ought to vote by patronizing the stores that comply with what they want,” chamber President Harry Hall said. “We don’t need a government to increase the burden on businesses, especially in this economy.”

While all three of the city’s hospitals are members of the chamber, they do not support the organization’s position. Representatives for Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Glendale Memorial Hospital and Verdugo Hills Hospital said they were in support of the ordinance.

But with an election cycle just around the bend, the political pressure from the business community could ratchet up pressure on three of the council members facing re-election — Councilmen Bob Yousefian, Ara Najarian and Frank Quintero — who must also balance their vote against a massive push from the health community.

The support lobby from the American Heart and Lung associations, local hospitals and the city’s majority of nonsmokers has been strong each time the council has taken up the proposal, but at each of those turns, Yousefian and Najarian have refused to go as far as their counterparts.

It would be more prudent to hold off on the outdoor dining restrictions until the economy rebounds or until other cities adopt equally restrictive bans, Yousefian said.

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