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A true smoke-free environment

Have you ever had to hold your breath while walking out of a building
because of a cloud of cigarette smoke, even if the source was outside the
required distance of 20 feet? Did you come away with your clothes and hair
smelling of cigarettes and the knowledge that if you smelled like smoke,
surely your lungs were exposed as well?

The debate between the personal freedoms of the smoker and non-smoker has
raised these and other questions as we continue to define this important
public policy.

When California banned smoking in the workplace and, most notability, at
restaurants and bars, the idea was to ensure that people were not forced to
be exposed to a harmful environment.

Among the most important obligations of government is to protect its
residents. How broad and how far that protection extends is at the center of
many policy debates we have in America.

This responsibility can speak to a range of issues: Having an adequate
police force, protecting our environment with strong coastal policies and
enhancing our transportation system to lessen congestion on our highways and
cut down on motor-vehicle exhaust.

When California lawmakers passed landmark legislation in 1994 to restrict
smoking at places of employment, this concept of protecting our quality of
life was at the center of the discussion.

More than a decade after our Golden State set the standard for smoking
regulations, California, to its credit, continues to keep this issue at the
forefront of public consciousness.

Earlier this year, the city of Calabasas enacted perhaps the strongest local
ordinance on

smoking in the country. The California Legislature has held
policy hearings focusing on the subject. Hollywood recently released a
mockumentary titled Thank You For Smoking. Few, except perhaps the tobacco
companies, would disagree that it is good news that a study released last
month showed fewer Californians are smoking.

We all know that, barring a few limited exceptions, one cannot smoke inside
a place of employment. But where does the “inside” end and the “outside”
begin?

State law says there shall be no smoking in an enclosed space. But statutes
fail to define an enclosed space. Some question whether a stairway or
elevator should be restricted because they are not always entirely enclosed.

Should a lobby or waiting area be considered part of the “place of
employment”?

With an eye toward clarification, I introduced Assembly Bill 2067, which the
Assembly passed in late May and the Senate Health Committee on June 14
passed on a bipartisan vote. It should reach the Senate floor sometime in
August.

If approved, my bill would add common-use areas to the definition of
enclosed spaces where smoking is already prohibited. A common-use area would
include: lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, stairwells, restrooms and
elevators. This legislation has gained the support of the American Lung
Association and the American Heart Association as well as the Foundation for
a Smoke-Free America.

AB 2067 is a plan not just to improve public health, but also to reinforce
simple common courtesy. I ask you to join me in supporting this much-needed
effort to protect California’s quality of life–for everyone. It is my hope
that by closing these loopholes and cleaning up the law, we can clean up the
air.


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