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When a Smoke Break Breaks the Law

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An article from the Daily News takes a look at the toll the 6-month old smoking ban in Burbank is taking on its local workers, most of whom are flummoxed by the fact that a smoke break means breaking the law. According to the article, one local businessman "Barry Kessler, 48, owner of a downtown jewelry store bearing his family name, has led the charge against the anti-smoking ordinance. In the coming weeks he plans to bring together business owners and petition the council to ease up on smokers."

The harsh anti-smoking laws mean that a fine of $200 is imposed for the first offense, and up to $380 for a second, typically. The Daily News explains:

The ordinance was adopted by a 3-2 vote of the council in March, and it went into effect in May. Except for a few designated areas, it bans smoking anywhere downtown, from Burbank Boulevard to Angeleno Avenue, and from First to Third streets. In the rest of the city, the ordinance bans smoking in city parks and on sidewalks, and 20-feet from businesses. The special restrictions apply to downtown because the 20-foot rule covers most of the area.

But it's not just the employees who are inconvenienced, it's the patrons, too. Many Downtown Burbank workers fear that the ban is driving away customers who are turned off by the ban or who receive a citation and then decide not to return to the area again because of the hassle.Other neighboring cities and regions, like Santa Monica, Calabasas, and Beverly Hills, have also put tough anti-smoking laws into action in recent months. Furthermore, as
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this About.com article states, "the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a law that will ban smoking in all City parks in addition to the ban already in effect at all City beaches. As of September 8, 2007, there will be a $250 fine for smoking or littering cigarette butts at any LA park or beach. There will still be a few areas at Griffith Park where smoking is still allowed, including designated areas at the Zoo, the Autry National Center and the golf course." This came about following the devastating fires in Griffith Park this summer.

So the question remains, what are smokers to do when the law says they can't smoke? Are their rights being violated, or are the rules encouraging people to quit their harmful habits? What do you think about anti-smoking laws?

Photo by S!zα via Flickr