Levine Legislation Protects Tenants from Secondhand Smoke

For immediate release:

Assembly Bill 746 Will Prohibit Smoking in Apartment Buildings and Condominiums

Today Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced legislation to prohibit smoking in multi-family homes. AB 746 is sponsored by the American Lung Association in California.

"Californians should be able to breathe clean air in their own homes," said Assemblymember Levine. "In apartments or condominiums, whenever a neighbor lights up, everyone in the building smokes with them. This is especially troublesome for children who have no choice but to breathe the secondhand smoke of their neighbors."

Secondhand smoke kills tens of thousands of Americans every year and causes serious life-threatening illnesses to thousands more. In 2006, the California Air Resources Board classified secondhand smoke as a 'Toxic Air Contaminant' in the same category as asbestos, cyanide and arsenic - all of which can lead to serious illness and death.

While many Californians choose not to allow smoking inside their homes, many living in apartments and condominiums are still exposed to drifting toxic secondhand smoke. One third of Californians live in multi-unit housing where units share walls, floors and/or ceilings. Consequently, millions may be exposed to secondhand smoke even if they do not allow smoking in their unit.

"It is imperative that California enact a multi-unit housing smoking ban to protect all California families from deadly secondhand smoke in the places they should feel safest – their own homes," said Jane Warner, President and CEO, American Lung Association in California. "This groundbreaking legislation will improve the health of all Californians by reducing exposure to smoke that drifts into housing units from balconies, patios, and other units."

"A smoke-free environment is critical to ensure a healthy pregnancy and this bill helps achieve that in multi-unit housing where many women, infants and children live," said March of Dimes California State Director Karyn DeMartini. "Exposing pregnant women to secondhand smoke may increase the risk of a low birthweight baby and can damage developing organs in unborn babies and infants."

Several California cities and counties have already passed local restrictions on smoking in multi-unit housing. These include San Rafael, Sonoma County, Huntington Park, Compton, Richmond, Belmont, and much more.

CONTACT: Michael Miiller, (916) 319-2010 or (916) 204-0485, Michael.miiller@asm.ca.gov

Fact Sheet

Assemblymember Levine represents the 10th Assembly District which includes Marin County and southern Sonoma County.

Secondhand Smoke Is Toxic

The U.S. Surgeon General says there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The research is overwhelming - with over 7,000 chemicals, at least 70 of which are cancer-causing, even brief exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous.

Secondhand smoke is both the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke that is exhaled by smokers. It can stay in the air long after a cigarette has been put out and can be involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. In fact, secondhand smoke exposure can cause asthma in children who have previously not had any symptoms. Other health effects on children from secondhand smoke exposure include:

  • Low birth weight and lung problems in infants
  • Acute lower respiratory tract infections (bronchitis and pneumonia)
  • Middle-ear infections
  • Chronic respiratory symptoms or problems

Secondhand smoke is also a serious health threat for nonsmoking adults. It causes lung cancer in those who haven't previously smoked and increases the risk for heart disease, stroke and chronic lung problems.

Smoke Can Travel Through Walls

Scientific studies show that smoke from a neighboring apartment can travel through ventilation systems, pipes, walls, open windows and doors, electrical sockets and even tiny cracks in plaster and drywall.

Not allowing smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to completely prevent exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke can also be absorbed into walls, floors, furniture, clothes, toys and other household surfaces after it is exhaled. Chemicals in the smoke can then be recycled into the air for hours, days and even months. Airing out rooms or separating the smoking from nonsmoking units within the same building does not always provide protection.

Local Measures

Several local jurisdictions in California already have passed measures restricting smoking in housing. The American Lung Association in California Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing has a list of these measures available online.

The above was pulled from information gathered by the California Department of Public Health and is available on line at www.tobaccofreeca.com.