By Ted AYALA
Smokers looking to take a puff of their nicotine fix in the comfort of their own apartments may want to light up as much as they can for the time being. Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to look further into drawing up an ordinance that would create smoking-free areas in existing apartment buildings and ban the use of smoking outright in newly constructed apartments.
The push to stamp out smoking in apartments came immediately after a divided council green-lighted the Glendale Triangle project to be built at 3900 San Fernando Road next to Glendale Memorial Hospital. That project, combined with other apartment projects looming in the city’s future, would potentially affect 1,200 new units.
Moves to strengthen the city’s anti-smoking stance began in 2010 with the implementation of the Glendale Fresh Air Ordinance. That ordinance prohibits smoking on city property, at mass transit stops, places of work, or in “common areas” – privately or publicly owned spaces less than 20 feet from a street, sidewalk or other prohibited areas. It also banned smoking in most outdoor dining areas. The latter move was decried by city businesses dependent on customers who smoked, saying that the ordinance would be a hindrance to their ability to thrive in an already moribund economy.
However, council has instead looked to expanding the ordinance, acknowledging complaints from residents that the current ordinance isn’t strong enough and the lack of manpower to enforce it.
The council chamber filled with residents looking to take to the dais to encourage the city to take a harder approach to the ordinance.
“There’s no confusion this way,” said Hodges Pearson about the banning of smoking in apartments. “[Non-smokers] shouldn’t have to suffer with second-hand smoke.”
Others, like Mona Montgomery, took aim against loosening restrictions on smoking in outdoor dining areas, in particular hookah lounges, which she claimed that, in her opinion, encouraged hookah users to seek marijuana and other drugs.
“I know very well that hookahs are associated with marijuana use,” she said. “I don’t want hookahs to be ‘cool’ or accepted.”
The loosened restrictions – permitting outdoor dining areas 5,000 feet or greater to expand their smoking areas from the currently permitted 25% to 50% – were attacked by some businesses, claiming that the revised rules effectively keep the status quo as only a handful of restaurants in the city have outdoor spaces that qualify.
“Everyone that comes to my hookah lounge comes there to smoke,” said Kevin Halsacki, owner of Hollywood Hookah Lounge. “Hookahs are part of their culture. [This ordinance] would take away work from my employees. You’re making it more difficult to operate and force us to close our businesses. And the smokers in Glendale will just go to Burbank, taking away revenue from the city.”
Council expressed little sympathy with businesses, instead focusing their concerns on residents’ health.
“I‘ve been reading all about hookahs,” said Councilmember Dave Weaver. “Lung cancer, oral cancer, esophageal cancer, heart diseases – it goes on and on. If people want to kill themselves, they can go do it in a certain area. If you want to do it, do it in isolation. Have at it – kill yourself. But I will not change the designation of hookahs.”
Mayor Frank Quintero praised the turn to tighten the ordinance, though acknowledged that enforcement remains a challenge.
“This is going to be very, very difficult to do,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy.”