The California city of Santa Monica is ready to take its smoking ban inside people's homes.
Smoking most inside apartments and condominiums would bring fines under a measure expanding the beachfront city's anti-smoking ordinance that was approved by the city council. The 4-2 vote on Tuesday made the city of 90,000 the latest California community to aim smoking bans at private residences.
“We’re seeing more efforts like this across California and around the country,” said Bronson Frick, associate director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “In a multi-unit housing situation, it’s shared airspace, so more people are expecting to have that clean environment. It’s about how it impacts other people — and it’s more than a nuisance, it’s a serious health hazard.”
All apartments and condominiums would have to be designated either “smoking” or “non-smoking” under the proposed law, according to Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky. All new tenancies and condominiums occupancies will be non-smoking units, including all new construction and existing units that become vacant. Existing residents in multi-unit building must designate their unit — and if an occupant fails to do so it will be deemed non-smoking.
California is home to the strictest smoking bans in the nation, with 26 cities and counties restricting or banning lighting up in multi-unit housing, with stricter policies in place in cities like Richmond, Compton and Alameda, Frick said. Across the country, as of March, 26 states prohibit smoking in bars and 32 ban lighting up in restaurants. Thirty-three states have smoke-free indoor air laws for worksites, while Idaho, Mississippi and North Carolina ban smoking in government jobsites but not in privately-owned businesses.
The new ordinance in Santa Monica will be enforced primarily by informal communication and small claims court, if necessary. Smoking is already banned at city beaches, parks, restaurants and near buildings. Violators of the new ordinance will be fined $100 and up to $500 for a third violation in the first year.
It's not immediately clear if the ordinance will cover usage of medical marijuana. Some other local anti-smoking ordinance cite marijuana specifically, while others do not, Frick said.
"Medical marijuana doesn't have to be smoked," he said. "It doesn't have to harm other people in the building."
The Santa Monica City Council also directed city staffers to return with a recommendation on a firm date to ban smoking in all units, including those where smoking is currently allowed, Radinsky said. The ordinance will be reviewed during a second reading on July 24.
An estimated 45.3 million people — or more than 19 percent of adults — in the U.S. smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s the leading cause of preventable death, accounting for roughly 443,000 deaths each year. In 2010, smoking prevalence was highest in the Midwest (21.8 percent) and South (21 percent) and lowest in the West (15.9 percent).
Earlier this month, Audrey Silk, a retired New York cop, filed a lawsuit against New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and its commissioner seeking to have “Smoking Prohibited” signs removed from state parks, pools, beaches and historic sites. The suit followed the agency’s implementation of a smoking ban in certain outdoor areas under the agency’s jurisdiction without any legislative authority, Silk said.
“The intentional use of signage to fool park visitors into thinking than an unofficial policy has the force of law as a coercive tactic to induce compliance with a moral, rather a legal, dictate cannot be tolerated,” Silk said in a statement. “Government is taking its war on smokers to the new contemptible level when it determines the rule of law is expendable when it comes ‘to those people.’ Rogue governance is a threat to all.”
Silk could be reached for comment on Friday.
No amount of exposure to secondhand smoke is safe, according to the CDC. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, lung cancer and other cancers up to 31 percent in nonsmoking adults. More than 50 percent of American children ages 3 to 11 years old are exposed to secondhand smoke and smoking-related diseases result in $96 billion in health care costs annually.