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Life’s a drag for smokers in Calabasas

Starting today, life's going to be a drag for smokers in the southern California city of Calabasas. NBC's George Lewis explains.

CALABASAS, Calif. — Nestled in the hills northwest of Los Angeles, Calabasas is proud of its pretty surroundings and its clean air. The last thing most people here want is secondhand smoke from cigarettes.

Last year, when she was a high school senior, 19-year-old Margo Arnold began lobbying city hall to do something. 

"Secondhand smoke takes eight years off your life," she says.

At her urging, the city passed the country's toughest measure to curb secondhand smoke —prohibiting smoking in most public places, indoors and out, except for designated areas.

Smokers say the new law is kind of a drag. One calls it "a little bit fascist."

At the local dog park, Alison Ostrin says she tries not to smoke near other people. Now she won't be able to smoke at all. 

"It makes you feel like a leper," Ostrin says.

Mayor Barry Groveman says he understands how smokers feel and that enforcement of the law will be phased in gradually.

"We're hoping this isn't an enforcement issue," he says. "We're not setting up smoking police."

When the new ordinance takes effect, the signs saying "Welcome to Calabasas" will be replaced by new ones saying "Clean air Calabasas — smoke-free city."

And, if people repeatedly disregard the law, they could be fined up to $500.

"It does have teeth in it," says Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Tom Martin. "It is a city ordinance, which are misdemeanors."

Officials are determined to clear the air here — no ifs, ands or butts.