California city bans smoking in multi-family homes

SAN RAFAEL, California Tue Oct 16, 2012 12:00am EDT

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SAN RAFAEL, California (Reuters) - A San Francisco suburb on Monday banned smoking in duplexes, condominiums and other multi-family homes, with city leaders saying they hoped to lead a wave of such regulations across California and ultimately the country.

The City Council in San Rafael, a community of 57,000 people about 15 miles north of San Francisco, voted unanimously for the ban, following a handful of other California municipalities that have outlawed smoking in buildings with as few as two units.

"We are happy to blaze a trail," Mayor Gary Phillips said before the vote. "We're most happy to be in the forefront of the issue because we think it will greatly benefit our residents and those visiting San Rafael, and we think it will set the tone for other cities as well."

Tobacco-control experts predicted that the tough smoking ordinance in San Rafael could touch off a larger movement in other states and cities.

"The San Rafael ban is a very significant event because it will spread," said Robert Proctor, a Stanford University history of science professor. "We're on the downslope of a big curve. Smoking peaked in 1981 with 630 billion cigarettes sold in the United States. Now it's down to 350 billion. And that number will keep on going down until smoking is a distant memory."

San Rafael is the state's ninth municipality to completely restrict smoking in multi-unit housing, said Pam Granger, advocacy manager for the American Lung Association in California. Granger said California was the only state where local jurisdictions have banned smoking in homes.

The ordinance has generally been supported by residents who have spoken at city council meetings, although two smokers came out to oppose the ban on Monday evening.


"This proposed smoking ban actually intends to punish people for what they do in their own homes," Thomas Ruppenthal told the council. "I really feel this is tyranny."

The ordinance also would prohibit smoking on San Rafael's downtown streets - the backdrop for parts of the 1973 film "American Graffiti."

When George Lucas filmed his coming-of-age movie in his hometown in 1973 people smoked at work, on airplanes, in restaurants, even in schools and hospitals. It was not until 1977 that neighboring Berkeley became the world's first city to restrict smoking in restaurants.

California restaurants and most workplaces went smoke-free in 1995, and bars, once a smokers' haven, followed in 1998. California and three other states now restrict smoking in cars with children.

Secondhand smoke kills an estimated 50,000 Americans, including 430 infants, a year, according to a 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's report. It concluded that concentrations of cancer-causing and toxic chemicals might be higher in secondhand smoke than in the fumes that smokers directly inhale.

California municipalities have used the report to prohibit smoking in apartments and other multi-family homes. In some cases, the laws apply only to new construction or to just a percentage of a housing complex's units.

But the restrictions have become increasingly strict, and San Rafael's ordinance applies to all homes, new or existing and rented or owned, with shared walls.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (7)
gregbrew56 wrote:
This sounds like tyranny, until you’ve lived next to a chain smoker in an apartment building. The smoke goes through cracks in adjoining walls and you are subjected to the odors and carcinogens 24/7 every day. Clothing an furnishings smell like smoke, eyes water, asthma acts up, food tastes different.

It’s really bad, and you won’t understand unless you’ve lived with it until you can afford to move to protect your health and the health of loved ones.

Oct 15, 2012 12:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
totherepublic wrote:
It is also impossible for one to stand on ones deck and smoke and not be within 20 feet of someone elses door or window…that is a law and I have often wonder about it.

Oct 16, 2012 9:07am EDT  --  Report as abuse
polarsouth42 wrote:
Meanwhile … you’re trying to legalize pot. marajuana is OK – Sugary sodas or BAD; Driving a toxic emitting power plant (your car) around the city is Ok, but smoking a cigarette in your home is OK. A rich man smoking a cigar in his private home is OK – but a poor man smoking a cheap cigarette in the only home he can afford, an apartment is BAD. You know, I used to think all these Ayn Rand conservatives were crazy with all their talk about the Nanny State and their fear mongering. But, actually – it appears they were right after all. BTW – I am a non-smoker living in a smoking building. What my neighbors do in their homes is their business.

Oct 16, 2012 12:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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