Smoke-free multi-unit housing in Central Los Angeles took another step forward Wednesday.
Over 20 multi-unit housing complexes in the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood have pledged to advance smoke-free housing. Drawing momentum from the community-based organization People's CORE, the Smoke-Free Apartments Project is a public health advocacy campaign aimed primarily at protecting tenants from second hand smoke.
"Smoking is a choice. Other tenants have no choice," noted Arturo Garcia, a Project Coordinator for People's CORE.
"The right to breathe clean air should not be something only homeowners get to enjoy."
People’s CORE completed a survey of more than 63 multi-apartment units in central Los Angeles. Surveys found that second-hand smoke drifted into hallways, garages, playgrounds, laundry areas.
The remnants of this secondhand smoke has generally been found to have a sweepingly negative effect on health. Even brief exposures to secondhand smoke can have permanently damaging effects. The chances of heart disease, cancer, and sudden infant death syndrome grow considerably with such exposure.
Despite established evidence of the dangers of secondhand smoke, yet still more links between secondhand smoking and poor health are being found. One study discovered that secondhand smoke led to as many as 40% of all new cases of chronic sinusitis. Another study found that exposure to secondhand smoke made people 1.5 times more likely to suffer from symptoms of psychological distress.
A weapon to combat this wide spectrum of public health problems has been the enactment of smoke-free laws. Laws have focused on the banning of smoking in public areas, including parks, restaurants, and offices.
Enacted by County, City and other municipal governments, smoke-free laws have proven to be largely effective in preventing the escalation of health problems. Researchers found that the enactment of such laws carried a strong relation to a decline in heart attack hospitalizations. Furthermore, youth who lived in areas with smoking bans had a 39% lower prevalence of the tobacco chemical, cotinine, in their blood.
While a growing number of smoking laws in certain common areas have been implemented in LA County, smoke-free housing has been a more contentious battleground with fierce debate between an individual tenant's right to smoke and the welfare of surrounding tenants and the public.
Surveys have found a slight majority tolerating the smoke in multi-unit housing. A survey from Apartments.com in 2008 found that even though a majority of renters don't smoke, a slight majority (45% to 40%) believed that smoking should not be banned in multi-unit housing. Another survey commissioned by the American Lung Association found that only 39% of renters preferred to live on premises where smoking was prohibited.
However, this has not stopped momentum for smoke-free housing. Landlords have enjoyed lower maintenance costs as a result of smoke-free policies. In Pasadena's new Westgate complex, soon to be the biggest smoke-free complex in LA County, demand for such housing amongst property owners and potential buyers has surpassed all projections.
Currently, advocates for smoke-free housing including People's CORE rely on measures including new leases, lease renewals, or written notifications to effectively make multi-housing complexes smoke-free.
There is currently no law in the State or municipal code prohibiting landlords from prohibiting smoking on their premises. In 2008, a bill to ban smoking in multi-housing units passed the California State Senate but failed to make it to Assembly.