BELMONT, California, Oct 29, 2007 (AFP) - The air will be cleaner when a broad smoking ban takes effect next month in this suburban enclave nestled between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

But while some residents have breathed a sigh of relief over the decision, others are fuming.

The anti-smoking ordinance, one of the strictest in the nation, makes it illegal to smoke in parks, outdoor eateries, doorways, construction sites and even in private apartments.

A tobacco habit in Belmont will soon get more expensive with fines of up to one thousand dollars for violating the law, which takes effect on November 8.

The Center for Disease control estimates 440,000 deaths annually in the US from tobacco related illness with at least 38,000 of those fatalities coming from second hand smoke. Smoking costs the State of California nearly 16 billion dollars annually, says the Department of Health.

But Belmont smokers say their freedom is being trampled.

"I've got the right to smoke my cigarette so long as I'm not blowing it in my neighbor's front door, right?" Jesse Bruner, a Belmont tattoo artist told AFP while he dragged deeply on a cigarette.

"But now they tell me that I've got to go out in the middle of the street," he said nodding to a median strip landscaped with pine trees.

Bill Dickenson, a Belmont city native and councilmember who voted against the resolution, also believes the new law has gone too far.

"Legislators should not have the power to go into your homes and restrict you," he said. "What's next, should I not be allowed to wear blue jeans on Fridays?

Earlier drafts of the ordinance also made smoking in cars and on any sidewalk subject to fine, but the final resolution removed the first, and amended the second with a "walk through provision."

But a ban on smoking within twenty feet of any doorway or window effectively restricts most of the city's sidewalks.

Like a noise ordinance, enforcement of the smoking ban will be by complaint only, said Warren Lieberman, Vice Mayor of Belmont.

"Hopefully people can work it out rather than calling the police," he said.

Loring De Martini, owner of Van's, a restaurant on a hill overlooking Belmont and the San Francisco Bay, thinks the smoking ban will make a twenty percent dent in his revenue.

"Van's is a destination place. Most of my business comes from outside town," De Martini said. "People think that you absolutely can't smoke in Belmont, so they are just going to go some place else for dinner."

One of De Martini's lunch customers, Steve Moore, a smoker and Belmont apartment dweller faces eviction if he continues to light up.

"I just want to be able to smoke in my own home," he said.

The city's smoking ban in apartment buildings will not take effect for another fourteen months.

Health officials are hailing the city of Belmont as a pioneer for a smoke free California.

"There is no risk free exposure to second hand smoke and it is a health hazard both indoors and outdoors," said Paul Knepprath, Vice President of Government Relations at the American Lung Association of California.

"Complaints about drifting smoke in multiunit apartment buildings are some of our most common calls. This is a landmark decision for public health."

Another ALA official, policy director Serena Chen, was unrepentant in comments to the San Francisco Chronicle, noting that earlier bans on smoking in offices and restaurants had encountered similar opposition.

"There was a lot of gloom-and-doom talk," she said. "But people are still working, and people are still flying."


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