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Choked Out

By the looks of things, that could be a logical next step for cities across Southern California that have been cracking down on smokers and secondhand smoke. Among them is Pasadena, which last week became the latest community to impose tough new laws against smoking cigarettes at home and in public.

“I keep hearing I have the right to smoke,” said 20-year smoker Robert Lawson, 43, who works as a caretaker in Pasadena. “It seems like everybody is doing everything they can to take away smokers’ rights. What about us? It’s illegal to smoke cigarettes in your car if minors are riding in the back seat. It’s illegal to smoke cigarettes in line. They are trying to force people to quit.”

Pasadena officials have been working to provide the public with more protection from secondhand smoke cigarettes since 2007, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the city a grade of C for its efforts to keep citizens away from secondhand smoke cigarettes emitted outdoors.

Two years ago, the American Lung Association gave Pasadena a B for its anti-smoking cigarettes work. Glendale, which had already passed restrictions on smoking cigarettes in common areas of multifamily units, was the only California city that received an A.

On July 11, the Pasadena City Council unanimously passed a new smoking cigarettes ordinance aimed at protecting residents living in apartments and condos from secondhand smoke.

The new law — which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013 — bans smoking cigarettes in apartment buildings and common areas, such as swimming pools, laundry rooms and garages located on multiunit properties. It will also require landlords to include language spelling out the new smoking cigarettes restrictions in leases and contracts.

The ordinance could impact thousands of Pasadena residents. According to Pasadena’s discount cigarette online Control Program Coordinator, Statice Wilmore, 12.2 percent (16,454 people) of Pasadenans smoke cigarettes cigarettes.

Wilmore was careful to point out that the ordinance is not an attack on cigarettes or smokers, even if it does severely restrict where people can light up.

“People are having difficulty breathing and can’t live in their buildings because the smoke cigarettes plumes and enters their windows,” Wilmore said. “Almost 70 percent of the people who smoke cigarettes want to stop. It is not a smoker vs. nonsmoker issue. It is about addressing quality-of-life issues.”

Although he does not see the ordinance as a step toward an all-out ban on cigarettes, “The reality is that smoking cigarettes is being viewed more and more as a health hazard for nonsmokers, and the rules reflect that,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Paul Little.

Little, an ex-smoker, once opposed the latest city ordinance, saying it went too far in restricting people from smoking cigarettes in their own homes. But he’s no longer against it.

“Going into homes and banning smoking cigarettes may be going too far, but they did consider giving neighbors the right to sue. The reality is we can expect more restrictive regulations as we go forward. Smoking is a health hazard for those who smoke cigarettes and those around them.”

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