LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - March 3, 2011) - Today the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched a campaign to inform the public about a new L.A. City ordinance prohibiting smokers from lighting up in outdoor dining areas -- including restaurant patios, cafes, food courts, food carts and mobile food trucks. The law, which goes into effect March 8, 2011, strengthens the city's efforts to reduce residents' exposure to the harmful chemicals found in secondhand smoke. Los Angeles is the largest city in the nation to implement a smoke-free outdoor dining policy.

"The vast majority of L.A. County residents are non-smokers -- 85.7 percent -- and data has shown that even many smokers prefer to dine in smoke-free settings," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, director and health officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "This ordinance continues Los Angeles' commitment to protecting the health of our residents and reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, emphysema and the many other diseases associated with tobacco smoke." 

The policy specifically prohibits smoking within 10 feet of outdoor dining areas, including food courts, as well as within 40 feet of food kiosks, food carts, and mobile food trucks in the City of Los Angeles. Beginning March 8, 2011, affected businesses are required to request that patrons not smoke within the designated distance of their business and post signage with specific phrasing and the international "no smoking" symbol. 

"The City of Los Angeles continues to set the pace for healthy living," said Mayor Villaraigosa. "Angelenos already enjoy smoke-free parks, beaches and farmers' markets and now they will be able to enjoy all the wonderful outdoor dining that L.A. has to offer without exposure to toxic secondhand smoke."

The campaign features colorful outdoor transit ads placed throughout the city showcasing delicious and healthy food and proclaiming eating out better with "a side of fresh air." Patrons and business owners can also learn about the law through radio announcements, online ads and the informational website FreshAirDiningLA.com.

"This is great news for the City of L.A. and we wanted the campaign to reflect that," said Fielding. "Nothing goes better with good food than a side of fresh air."

Violators -- patrons and business owners alike -- face fines of up to $500. Bars, 18 and older nightclubs and buildings hosting private events that are completely closed to the public are exempt from this policy. Business owners and mobile food vendors can learn more about the law and download the proper signage at FreshAirDiningLA.com.

The law, which builds upon California's restriction on smoking inside restaurants and bars in the City of Los Angeles, was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles City Council in January, 2010. Affected businesses were given a one year grace period, during which time they were required to post education notices about the new smoking restriction. With the implementation of this policy, Los Angeles joins a number of cities in L.A. County that have already implemented smoke-free outdoor dining policies, including Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Glendale, Pasadena and Santa Monica. 

To help people who currently smoke, have already quit or want to help a friend or relative kick this deadly addiction, Angelenos can visit LAQuits.com for information and resources about quitting smoking, or call 1-800-NO-BUTTS for free and confidential telephone counseling that has proven to double a smoker's chances of successfully quitting than if the smoker tried to do it alone. The service, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and TDD/TYY, also assists those trying to quit chewing tobacco and has experts to help teens and pregnant women quit. Additional information and smoking cessation tips can be found on the LA Quits Facebook page and Twitter @LAQuits.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit publichealth.lacounty.gov or visit our YouTube channel at youtube.com/lapublichealth or follow us on Twitter: @LAPublicHealth.