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Malibu to ban public smoking

Olivia Damavandi, Malibu Times

The Malibu City Council on Monday voted to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in public open spaces beginning July 31.

The ordinance, as proposed, would ban smoking within 20 feet of a public event, such as a farmers’ market. It would also ban smoking within 20 feet of outdoor dining areas on public or private property, such as hotels and supermarkets.

Businesses with outdoor dining areas would be also required to conspicuously post and maintain “no smoking” signs within the area.

The cost to implement such an ordinance has not yet been determined, but will be based on the amount of public outreach and level of enforcement, a city report states.

All council members except John Sibert, who did not attend the Monday meeting, supported the ordinance. However, Councilmember Sharon Barovsky said she would not support the ordinance unless it required the implementation of smoking waste receptacles, or freestanding ashtrays, at least 24 feet from business entrances. Where that is not possible, the waste receptacles must be located at the furthest points from the entrances, she said.

Barovsky argued that while banning smoking in dining areas and at public events would improve air quality, it would actually increase pollution. People would smoke outside the prohibited area and drop their cigarette butts on the ground when they are finished, she said.

Furthermore, she said, the purpose of the city’s ban on smoking at the beach would be defeated, as littered cigarettes would ultimately end up there.

Councilmember Jefferson Wagner agreed with Barovsky, and said, “Most of the [cigarette] butts will end up in the storm drain. I feel that we do need to provide some kind of receptacle.”

“To write an ordinance that doesn’t provide for the unintended consequences of that ordinance isn’t a good idea,” Barovsky said.

But City Attorney Christi Hogin disputed that business owners would not be responsible for individuals who littered their cigarettes outside the prohibited smoking area because they would be doing so on public property enforced by Sheriff’s deputies.

“Don’t tell me there’s going to be a cop there every time someone puts a cigarette out on the street,” Barovsky said to Hogin.

The council had listed the smoking ordinance as one of its top priorities in May, after the American Lung Association’s annual report card gave Malibu an “F” grade along with 60 percent of cities within Los Angeles County.

Longtime Malibu resident William McCarthy, a professor of public health at UCLA, told the council in February that a measurable decrease in lung cancer rates, particularly in California, has been noted in places such as Calabasas that have adopted ordinances banning smoking. The majority of the population will benefit from adopting the ordinance, he added.

Residents have also voiced their support for the ordinance not only for its health benefits, but for environmental ones as well.

“The Pepperdine fire happened from someone allegedly throwing a cigarette butt out of their car,” Marshall Thompson said before the council in February. “It’s obnoxious, and it’s a public health issue.”

The council directed staff to make a second reading and adopt the ordinance on July 13.

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