Beverly Hills bans smoking at outdoor restaurants

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Outdoor smoking at Beverly Hills restaurants was officially banned on Monday under a city law aimed at promoting a healthier environment for diners in the home to the stars.

Smokers who light up on outdoor restaurant and bar patios face fines ranging from $100 for a first offense to $500 for persistent offenders as the ordinance took effect in the city famous for its Rodeo Drive designer shopping street.

It applies to virtually all outdoor restaurants and hotels, including celebrity haunts like the Caffe Roma and Spago patios frequented by cigar-loving California governor and former action star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The law was passed by Beverly Hills city council in June but implementation was delayed until after the busy summer tourist season for fear it would deter heavy-smoking Europeans from eating out in the city. Forty percent of the 5 million annual visitors to Beverly Hills are tourists from overseas.

The law was opposed by the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association, which said it could drive smokers to restaurants in nearby cities where outdoor smoking is still allowed.

Beverly Hills joins the cities of Santa Monica, Burbank and Calabasas in the Los Angeles area in adopting widespread outdoor smoking bans.

In a move copied widely by other states and nations, in 1998 California banned smoking in all indoor public places, including bars. In recent years, Southern California cities have even banned smoking on most beaches along a 90-mile (140 km) stretch of the coastline.