Too Far? Calif. Bill Would Outlaw Smoking In Apartments, Condos

Cigarettes, They Satisfy

A new proposed bill in California will outlaw smoking indoors in all attached dwellings. That means apartments, townhomes, condos, duplexes and other attached buildings. A full third of all Californians live in attached dwellings, so a law like this could have a huge direct effect on the lives of many people.

The controversial bill was introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine. Under the law, indoor tobacco smoking would be banned in all attached dwellings, although outdoor smoking would still be permitted 20 feet or more from the building. Interestingly, in a state that has liberal marijuana laws, there is no provision for marijuana within the legislation, AB746.

I feel like every time I write about legislation that purports to put limits on people’s actions or activities, I’m torn (like with Massachusetts’ “fat letters” or whether people in South Caroline should be allowed to buy soda with food stamps). On one hand, I really see the public health benefits of this kind of a law, as well as the overall social benefits that would probably come as a long-lasting effect (If you’re not allowed to smoke anywhere, you’re less likely to be a smoker. Smoking becomes rarer as a whole, which is better for individuals and for society.) But on the other hand, I’m really resistant to laws governing what consenting adults can do in their own homes. I’ve lived in an condo building where a neighbor smoked, and it was super gross when I could smell it inside my apartment, but I would never dream of telling that person, whoever they were, that they couldn’t smoke inside their own unit, their own home. And I don’t necessarily think that the state of California should, either.

But the evidence cited in the SFGate article is compelling: the fact that almost 5 million Californians are exposed to secondhand smoke against their will, combined with the emotional story of Aaron Haning, the 9-year-old boy who has “itchy eyes” and respiratory problems because of his neighbor’s smoking.

According to SFGate:

A survey of California renters by the American Lung Association showed that 82 percent would prefer to live in a complex where smoking is not allowed anywhere or is confined to a separate section.

In recent years, some California cities (mostly in the Bay Area) have enacted their own laws against smoking in multi-unit buildings. Banning smoking in condo buildings is also a growing trend around the country.

What do you think about AB 746, the law proposed by Assembly Member Levine? Are you in favor or opposed? Why?

Photo: Flickr user Orin Zobest

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    • Meghan Keane

      My NYC apartment building is non-smoking already. A fact I know because every once in awhile there are angry notes about someone smoking in the building. Though they usually get promptly torn down…

    • Adrea

      Oh my god, I would love it if this passed. My neighbors smoke, which I’ve had neighbors smoking before, but these two smoke non-stop and leaves their front door open which means the smoke pours in through the crack under my door. And when I go in and out my door it whooshes in and lingers all over. We’ve asked them to please keep their door closed when smoking and they do it only when they think we are home. I have breathing problems but even if I didn’t – it’s disgusting and rude and is probably affecting my health in multiple ways. If someone is doing something that affects you then it is no longer just “their right”.

    • belongtotoday

      An apartment is not ‘your own home’. You do not own it. You are renting it TEMPORARILY and subject to a myriad of clauses and laws. So yes, it’s completely within the building owner’s right to declare the building non-smoking.

      And generally when apartment tenants do dickhead things that disturb other tenants, they get in trouble for it. So smoking should be no different. If tenant A can’t play their music loud at 2 am in the morning for everyone around them to hear, why can tenant B smoke and inflict the smell (and potential dangers) on those same people? If tenant C has been asked to get rid of their dog because the dog barks endlessly, again, why can tenant B disturb everyone with their smoking?

      Living in an apartment means being courteous and sometimes altering the way you live your life because you’re only a few inches away from your neighbors instead of a few feet like you would be in a house where you could get away with smoking with the windows open, blasting music louder, etc.

      • Carrie Murphy

        But if you own a condo, a duplex or a condominium, that IS your own home, right?

      • Art Vandelay

        I agree with a lot of what you say here. However, you’ve hit on what I think would make this legislation a lot more reasonable: owner responsibility. Instead of completely removing options, I believe social laws should merely require certain choices be made. It would be much more prudent to require an owner to either: have a smoke-free building OR equip the non-smoking section of their building to provide air which meets some given air quality standard.

    • belongtotoday

      Not to mention that it can cause almost irreversible damage to the building from minor burns and wall staining and…

      • Cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire fatalities in the United States, killing 700 to 900 people – smokers and nonsmokers alike – per year.

      • Smoking-material structure fires killed 760 people and injured 1,520 others in 2003.

      • Property losses from smoking-material fires total hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

      • There were 25,600 smoking-material structure fires in the United States in 2003.

      • Art Vandelay

        That information is from a group working to make fire-safe cigarettes a standard – legislation which has largely passed already (43 states as of 2010), so those statistics are outdated and (assuming fire-safe cigarettes are effective) also going to be very different from to-date statistics. I wouldn’t use them to lend credence to the footing of this bill.

    • KAL

      I am so glad I no longer live in California. From the comments left here by mental midgets, you could ask yourself how has anybody survived at all?