CITYWIDE — If you want to smoke freely, you’re in the wrong city.
Santa Monica was one of 15 municipalities in the state highlighted by the American Lung Association for its tobacco control policies.
The Lung Association report also placed Santa Monica in one of the top spots in Los Angeles County, with an A rating and 35 out of a possible 43 points.
City Hall’s smoke-free housing policy, which is just over a year old, contributed greatly to Santa Monica’s high scores this year, said Lung Association representative Vanessa Marvin.
“One thing that sets them apart is that they were the first ones with rent control to do smoke-free housing,” she said.
The law was passed by the City Council in 2012 and banned smoking for incoming renters. Those who smoked when the law was passed had the option to continue doing so. When they move out, the apartment converts to non-smoking.
At least 69 known carcinogens found in tobacco smoke can seep through walls, electrical sockets, and air ducts, some renters have said, prompting the council to pass the ban.
Landlords are required to keep track of who smokes and who doesn’t but City Hall doesn’t keep a database.
Adam Radinsky, a city attorney with the Consumer Protection Unit, said that they’ve heard, through word-of-mouth, that the program is a success.
They get one or two calls a month from tenants claiming the property owner isn’t enforcing the ban, he said. Once they reach out, Radinsky said, they have good compliance rates.
City Hall was near the top of the list in nearly all of the Lung Association’s sub-categories, Marvin said.
It could do more to reduce the sale of tobacco products, particularly around schools, and the amount of smoking at construction sites, she said.
“Santa Monica is really one of the top cities so it’d be pretty hard for them to improve,” she said.
For smokers, all the restrictions can be a hassle. Perry Clark sat outside the smoke-free Santa Monica College campus on Pearl Street smoking a vaporizer on a bench Wednesday morning. Vaporizers have become a popular substitute for cigarette smokers, and they have not been regulated by the federal government.
“They’re tripping even if you smoke off the campus,” he said. “You walk along the sidewalk and they’ll give you a hard time.”
Clark is an SMC student and he said he sometimes smokes the vaporizer in the library. Ghaith Janabi, who sat next to Clark on the bench, said he’s gotten in trouble for smoking a vaporizer in the library.
Janabi doesn’t mind the smoking restrictions, though. Everyone gathers in the same couple spots: by the bike rack on Pearl Street, at the benches, at the bus stops.
“You meet a lot of new people that way,” he said.
Iman Asgari, an SMC student, sat by himself on the corner of Pearl and 16th streets, smoking in front of a house. Asgari lives on the edge of Santa Monica and he said that smoking restrictions force him to smoke in odd places.
He’s never gotten a ticket or been yelled at by neighbors but he’s conscious of the restrictions.
It’s similar on the Third Street Promenade where he often joins other smokers in the alleyways. Smoking is banned along the promenade, at Farmers’ Markets, parks, the beach, outdoor dining areas, the Santa Monica Pier, bus stops or ATM lines and within 20 feet of any public doorway or window.
These pop-up smoking areas bother a Sunset Park resident, Jeanne Laurie, who recently wrote in a letter to the Daily Press stating that bus stops by the promenade and the college are often filled with smokers.
“If a person wants to walk on the sidewalk on the north side of Pearl from end to end at the college, that person better have a scuba tank for air,” she wrote.
Enforcement of outdoor smoking restrictions falls on the police.
Officers see people violating smoking bans daily, said Sgt. Jay Moroso.
It’s up to the individual officer whether they choose to give a warning or write a ticket, he said.
“We have many tourists here that are not aware of our smoking laws who are generally in smoking restricted areas,” Moroso said. “We generally warn them of the violation before we issue them a citation.”
But someone who should know better, like a promenade employee, would more likely get a ticket, Moroso said.
“Our main goal is to elicit the public’s compliance with regard to the law,” he said. “If education can do it without enforcement measures, that will work for us.”