Residents of apartment buildings and other multi-family complexes share many things, from parking garages to cable television providers to elevators and swimming pools.
They also share a common truth — that if one person smokes, everybody smokes.
Smoke, like noise, knows no walls, which is why the city of Santa Rosa is on the right track with its proposal to ban smoking inside multi-family complexes and to limit it to designated outdoor areas.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss the ordinance at its meeting today and possibly take action.
We encourage the council to move forward with this much-needed expansion of the city’s smoking regulations.
There’s good research to support where the city is going. The U.S. surgeon general has found that no level of exposure to secondhand smoke is risk-free.
According to the city’s staff report, research indicates that to remove oneself completely free from exposure to secondhand smoke in outdoor areas, one needs to be nearly 23 feet away from a smoker.
As a result, Santa Rosa is looking at following in the steps of other communities such as Petaluma, Sebastopol and unincorporated areas of the county in banning smoking inside attached housing units.
As drafted, Santa Rosa’s ordinance also would make it illegal to smoke marijuana and e-cigarettes inside multi-family complexes.
Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom has indicated she would like to include an exemption for medical marijuana users as Sebastopol has done, saying the city needs to acknowledge that using medical marijuana is legal.
But so is smoking, as well as a number of activities such as bagpipe playing that are not particularly conducive to life in a high-density complex and can infringe on the general quality of life.
The city may need to provide some accommodation in the rules for immobile individuals with medicinal marijuana cards, but we don’t see a need for a blanket exemption. To many, second-hand pot smoke is just as unwelcome as cigarette if not more so.
The council also should resist pressure from those who want an exemption for e-cigarettes. There are enough unknowns about the health impacts of vaporized liquid nicotine to warrant including e-cigarettes as well.
We sympathize to some degree with those who, as a result of this change, will be unable to smoke inside their own living areas. But we have greater sympathy for those who seek to live in an environment free from the health risks posed by second-hand smoke. For too long the law has been on the side of the former. It’s time to reverse that.