Even though it’s hard to recall what I did during the evenings before the Olympics (or what I’ll do when they’re over) I do remember a warm Tuesday night almost a month ago, when I eagerly watched a City Council meeting on TV.

Concerned about the dangers of drifting second-hand smoke in apartments and condos, the council was debating a smoking ban ordinance (which was only for new tenants, meaning existing smokers would be unaffected). Given that I dread a cigar smoker moving next door to me, I sat in front of my TV with bated breath (whatever bated is).

With all due respect to the council, I soon came to the conclusion their meetings are not exactly “must see” TV. Given the fixed cameras, I’d compare it to watching C-SPAN, meaning while viewing, one should not operate heavy equipment as it may cause drowsiness.

Speaking of drowsiness, as I watched the council I couldn’t help but notice the huge pot of coffee behind them. Frankly, and I mean this as a compliment, I don’t know how the council stays awake. You couldn’t pay me enough to listen to people like me whine about what’s wrong with Santa Monica, yada, yada, yada. (Whatever yada is.)

I also couldn’t help but notice the big bags of Doritos on the same table. (Hope I’m not outing any of the council’s guilty pleasures.) Hey, I’ve got an idea. Maybe City Hall could charge Frito Lay a product placement fee? The company can certainly afford it.

Doritos have been on the market since 1966 and are a $4 billion a year product. It’s hard to imagine how, but in 1994 Doritos spent $50 million just to redesign the chip. (Which would suggest they could spring for an extra camera or two for our City Council broadcast.)

Back to smoking, in the name of full disclosure, when I’m exposed to cigarette smoke I have an allergic reaction wherein I practically lose my voice. (Which I realize some wouldn’t think is such a bad idea.)

So, as I watched with delight, the council voted 4-2 for a smoking ban. I thought to myself, “This is too good to be true.” Turns out, it was.

You see at the second reading of the ordinance the council completely reversed itself only a fortnight later (Old English for “14 nights,” which shows you I haven’t been just wasting my time watching the London Olympics). Bobby Shriver, author of the ordinance, says such a reversal has only happened once in his seven years on the council.

Shriver, Mayor Richard Bloom, Bob Holbrook and Terry O’Day had voted for the smoking ban (with Gleam Davis absent), but two weeks later, voting against were Kevin McKeown, O’Connor, Davis and Bloom. (Leaving me counting the days until a cigar smoker moves in next door and I wind up walking around my apartment in a hazmat suit.)

And just like that the smoking ordinance was toast. (Although I happen to like toast.) It had occurred so fast it was like smoke and mirrors. Actually, it was more like Zig-Zags and bongs as among the “constituencies” pressuring the council had been medical marijuana users. (Even though the city attorney specifically said they’d be eligible for an exemption.)

I realize that there are many who genuinely need medical marijuana. But I also know many who are just stoners, albeit with a note from their doctor. In fact, doctors’ notes for marijuana or pets is seemingly such a big business these days that I wouldn’t be surprised if “note writing” became a required course in med school.

For example, a young woman in my building got a note from her doctor saying that she needed to have two dogs. Bi-polar, perhaps? I can only imagine how many dogs Sybil might have needed.

So, despite warnings from the American Cancer Society and the Environmental Protection Agency that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer (is that all?), and despite the fact that only 10.7 percent of Santa Monicans smoke, our fair city doesn’t have a smoking ordinance to protect residents’ living space. (Though numerous communities in the state do!) So much for being “progressive” and “out front” in protecting public health.

But Mayor Bloom, who’s running for the 50th Assembly District in November, insists that the smoking ban will be re-visited. “I am very resolute that we do pass something that moves this issue forward.”

I’m hoping that whatever the good mayor has in mind, it comes soon. (Besides, it’s really difficult to find a comfy hazmat suit.)

Now I must end this weekly missive as I’ve got to return to the Olympics. It seems they’re replaying footage of the badminton scandal. (There’s two words you never thought you’d ever see in the same sentence, “badminton” and “scandal.”) You don’t think I’m watching too much Olympics, do you?


If he can ever pry himself away from Olympics coverage, Jack can be reached at jnsmdp@aol.com.

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