It Is Now Illegal To Smoke In Your Own Home In San Rafael, California

In a unanimous decision, members of the San Rafael City Council
have approved the
strictest smoking ordinance
in the country. Effective last
Assembly Bill 746
bans residents of apartments, condos,
duplexes, and multi-family houses from smoking cigarettes and
“tobacco products” inside their homes.

Introduced by Assembly Member Marc Levine and
by the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition
for over seven years, the
ordinance applies to owners and renters in all buildings that house
wall-sharing units for three or more families. The purpose is to
prevent second-hand smoke from travelling through doors, windows,
floorboards, crawl spaces, or ventilation systems (i.e. any
conceivable opening) into neighboring units.

Levine said the bill is motivated by his desire to ensure that
“Californians [can] breathe clean air in their own homes.” He
continued, “In apartments or condominiums, whenever a neighbor
lights up, everyone in the building smokes with them.”

Rebecca Woodbury, an analyst at the City Manager’s office who
helped write the ordinance,
 some of the bill’s specifics to ABC
News. “It doesn’t matter if it’s owner-occupied or
renter-occupied,” she said. “We didn’t want to discriminate. The
distinguishing feature is the shared wall…I’m not aware of any
ordinance that’s stronger.”

The bill’s proponents cited scientific evidence that shows
cigarette smoke is able to travel through the ventilation systems
of apartments. Some of this evidence was produced by two
CDC studies
, which found that roughly 45 percent of apartment
dwellers claimed to have been exposed to second-hand smoke in their
homes in the past year.

Some anti-smoking groups, like the American Lung Association,
have expressed their support for the legislation. The President and
CEO of California’s division
the ordinance is “groundbreaking” and called for a
state-wide ban. 

The ordinance is not without its detractors, however. 

A researcher at the Heartland
, a free-market policy think tank in Chicago, said the
ban is part of a larger, disturbing trend of government
encroachment on personal freedoms. As he
 ABC News:

I don’t like cigarettes, and I’ve never taken a puff. My
sympathies aren’t with smokers because I am one, it’s because of
the huge growth in laws and punishments and government restricting
people more and more. Illinois’ criminal code was 72 pages long in
1965; today it’s more than 1,300 pages long. 

Brian Augusta, of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said
that targeting multifamily units disproportionately affects
low-income families and workers. According to the
Sacramento Bee
, Augusta said, “If smoking is an addiction,
and it clearly is, are we telling people that they have to quit
smoking—without support—or leave their homes?” 

George Koodray, New Jersey state coordinator for Citizens
Freedom Alliance and the Smoker’s Club,
the evidence linking apartment-dwelling to second-hand
smoke exposure as weak. “The science for that is spurious at best,”
he said.

The California Apartment Association has not taken an official
position on the issue, but has
stated its doubts
as to how the ordinance will be enforced and
by whom. As it stands, AB 746 levies rule-breakers with fines but
does not identify who will respond to complaints or write

Levine said that he
the ordinance will be “self-enforcing,” but it’s clear
that landlords are being prodded to take up the torch. In an
informational pamphlet published by the city,
landlords are advised
to threaten rule-breaking tenants with

from Hit & Run

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