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Santa Monica's Expanded Residential Smoking Ban Kicks In  

By Lookout Staff

September 9, 2010 -- A law that effectively bans smoking on the private balconies, patios, porches and decks in multi-family residential buildings goes into effect Thursday in Santa Monica.

The law, adopted by the City Council on August 10, expands an existing residential smoking ban from common areas -- such as yards, walkways, and play areas -- to also include a 25-foot radius around all doors, windows and vents.

The law also covers areas on neighboring properties that are within 25 feet of a door, window or vent.

In addition, the law requires landlords and homeowners' associations to post at least one conspicuous sign in the common area notifying residents of the law and to give notice by December 1, 2010 to all affected units.

Under the law, a person who smokes in a restricted area is subject to a court-ordered payment of $100 for the first offense. Subsequent violations carry payments of $200 and $500 respectively.

The law will be enforced by those who are bothered by a violator, and any person can bring a case in small claims court, City officials said.

"We recommend that all tenants try to keep this as friendly and low key as possible," advised officials of the City's Consumer Protection Unit. "If that fails, the next step is to deliver a letter to the tenant who is smoking.

"Typically, as the word spreads and people become more familiar with smoking laws, compliance is extremely high," officials said. "If a smoker ignores a written request to follow the law, any person can bring a case in small claims court."

When the council passed the law, nearly all the council members admitted this was not an ideal way to enforce the law, but some feared including an infraction could lead to evictions.

"What we are doing here is walking a very thin line trying to weigh and protect the rights of non-smokers and the rights of tenants," Council member Gleam Davis said.


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