Our View: Let the market ban smoking in apartments

March 20, 2013 

Not every good idea needs be to enacted into state law.

That's our view on legislation that would impose a statewide ban on smoking in apartments and condos that have two or more units and share walls, floors, ceilings or ventilation systems. It was introduced as Assembly Bill 746 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael.

Smoking is a filthy habit, posing health hazards to smokers and to those exposed to their second-hand smoke. Most Californians fully understand that, which is why these days only about 14 percent of them smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products. We hope that percentage continues to drop as young people are educated about the dangers of tobacco use. There is nothing cool about it.

We also support bans on smoking in restaurants and workplaces and immediately outside the entrances to public buildings. We applaud landlords that ban smoking in their rental units, whether houses or apartments, and we think it's a good step for condominium homeowners associations to ban smoking, as many do for large pets and high-volume parties in the middle of the night.

Twenty-nine cities and counties, starting with Belmont in the East Bay in 2007, already ban smoking in apartments and condos. According to Belmont City Manager Greg Scoles, complaints of smoking infractions are rare and resolved quickly by making people aware of the rules. The city has an education program, which was key during the transition period. The city, to his knowledge, has not issued any citations, which carry a $100 fine.

Even in cities where there is no ban, many landlords impose no-smoking policies because they don't want their units smelling like smoke and, on a sheer business level, because there is now a greater demand for nonsmoking units than for smoking rentals.

The marketplace is taking care of phasing out smoking in multiple dwelling units and rentals, as are individual cities and counties. The Legislature should butt out on this one.

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