California Cities Vote on Smoking Ban in Apartments

Two California cities are pushing anti-smoking legislation to previously unseen limits by banning tenants from lighting up inside apartment buildings.

Leading the way is Belmont, south of San Francisco, which threatened at one stage to ban smoking anywhere within city limits. Instead, Belmont city council contented itself with a ban on smoking in any building where residents share a common floor or ceiling. It is also banning all smoking within 20ft of a doorway, a common area, and areas used by children. A final vote on the new rules is expected next week, with implementation in November.

In southern California, Calabasas, a suburban community in the hills above Malibu, is going even further. The city council was preparing for a vote last night that would expand anti-smoking laws to encompass apartment buildings.

The proposal would exempt smokers already living in a place where they have a habit of lighting up, but would apply to them when they moved.

Intriguingly, it also exempts long-standing homeowners -- it only applies to renters and property owners in newly built condominium buildings.

Calabasas has taken to calling itself Clean Air Calabasas, a Smoke-Free City. In March, it approved an ordinance banning smoking "everywhere in the city except as otherwise provided".

Smokers in the town can light up in shopping centre car parks and other outdoor areas "in which no non-smoker is present." That means pavements, streets, bus stops and parks are off-limits, except perhaps in the dead of night.

The new measures have enraged libertarians and provoked a handful of death threats against the council members who sponsored them. They have raised eyebrows even among anti-smoking activists, who say that outdoor tobacco bans just push the habit inside people's homes, where children can be exposed to the fumes.

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