Research shows the number of adults smoking in Hermosa Beach has dropped significantly two years after the city eliminated smoking from all parks, outdoor dining areas and city-owned parking lots. Photo credit: shutterstock.com
Erin McCoy said it’s hard enough to smoke in Hermosa Beach, where she lives. But now, neighboring Manhattan Beach is about to make it even harder.
If a policy is approved at the June 3 meeting of Manhattan Beach’s City Council, smoking would be banned from all shared outdoor areas, essentially limiting smoking to private residences and properties.
McCoy said that’s too drastic.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” she said. “People are adults who are doing this, and they can if they want to. I think there’s more important things that the city should be doing. If I do have a cigarette, I try to be courteous and not bother people.”
The two cities have been at the forefront of progressively restricting outdoor smoking to almost eliminate it entirely.
Two years ago, Hermosa Beach banned smoking from all parks, outdoor dining areas and city-owned parking lots, a policy that exceeded state requirements.
It was spurred by a report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which showed that in 2007, 17.4 percent of adults in Hermosa Beach smoked, higher than the countywide rate of 14.3 percent. The report also ranked Hermosa Beach 61st out of the 103 jurisdictions in the county for life expectancy.
Since the ban, only 7 percent of adults in Hermosa Beach identified themselves as smokers in 2013, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Lisa Santora, chief medical officer for the Beach Cities Health District, said the smoking ban has helped make the community healthier.
“Policy has been the primary driver of reductions in smoking throughout our state and across the United States,” Santora said. “By creating smoke-free environments, it supports people who are trying to maintain a smoke-free life.”
Meanwhile, smoking has decreased countywide, though not as drastically. While 14.3 percent of adults in the county smoked in 2007, 13 percent of adults smoked in 2011. But that decrease is part of a larger trend, going back to 1999 when 18 percent of adults in the county smoked.
Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County, said that the decrease is partly because more and more cities are adopting policies that limit the outdoor areas where people can smoke.
The L.A County Department of Public Health reports that about 50 of the county’s 88 incorporated cities have policies that ban smoking from apartments, parks, beaches and other shared spaces. Fifteen cities, including Hermosa Beach, have comprehensive outdoor smoking policies.
“Increasingly, the places where the rights of the nonsmoker are given primacy is going up,” Fielding said. “It is a legal activity, but I can tell you that if (cigarettes) were introduced today, I can’t see how it would be approved.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The agency reports that 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Smokers are also more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.
The CDC also says nonsmokers who breathe secondhand smoke are at risk for the various diseases that smokers develop. Since the first surgeon general’s report on smoking was released in 1964, 2.5 million adult nonsmokers have died because of exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the CDC.
Manhattan Beach’s proposed smoking policy would also include e-cigarettes. While e-cigarettes are included in smoking bans for some cities, including Los Angeles, other cities such as Hermosa Beach haven’t included the increasingly popular form of smoking yet.
“I’m very concerned that e-cigarettes would undo a half-century of work of de-normalizing smoking,” Fielding said. “We’ve made enormous progress. It would be terrible to see that reversed.”
While e-cigarettes may not yet be included in all smoking policies, Santora said that having a more comprehensive policy encourages residents to speak up when others smoke.
Now families in Hermosa Beach are empowered to say something,” Santora said. “If you were to smoke an e-cigarette in Hermosa Beach, you’d probably be confronted by a mom who would ask you not to smoke around her children.”