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Smoking law gets tougher again

Council vote makes lighting up at multifamily residences difficult to do legally.

October 02, 2010|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

Burbank smokers have six months to change their smoking habits around their homes.

The City Council this week voted 3 to 1 to prohibit smoking on private balconies and patios in multifamily residences. Smokers will also be prohibited from smoking in or around swimming pool areas when children 17 or younger are present, as well as play areas.

Councilman Dave Golonski recused himself from the decision due to owning a number of multifamily complexes in Burbank.

The current ordinance, in place until May, prohibits smoking at all city-owned properties, downtown Burbank, the Chandler Bikeway, outdoor dining and service areas, and all sidewalks and pedestrian areas accessible to the general public. Violators can also be cited for smoking within 20 feet of an entrance or exit to a building, or within 5 feet of entrances or in common areas of multifamily residences.

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The new amendments will also prevent Burbank residents and visitors from smoking in multifamily units when the residences share common air ducts.

"I think it's a marvelous start and a marvelous improvement to what the ordinance they already had," said Esther Schiller, executive director of the Newbury Park-based Smokefree Air For Everyone, which advocates for secondhand-smoke restrictions.

The amendment prohibiting smoking when two or more residences share heating or cooling systems is the first of its kind in the state, Schiller said.

Councilman David Gordon opposed the measure and expressed concerns about what could end up being selective enforcement and an additional burden on the Police Department. He has also taken issue with creating what he said amounted to the beginning of a nanny state.

In 2009, officers issued 490 citations and have issued 433 so far this year, police said.

"What we do is enforce the spirit of the law, not necessarily the letter of the law," said Police Chief Scott LaChasse. "There's room for discretion there. Our true efforts are at prevention of any type of a problem because that's the most effective way to deal with it."

City officials proposed several options for educating the public about the new ordinance, but no plans were finalized Tuesday.

A year after enforcement begins, the ordinance will return to the City Council to consider the effectiveness of the new amendments.

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