Those who choose to smoke tobacco are killing themselves slowly. And that’s OK. Tobacco is still legal to purchase and consume if you are over the age of 18. Therefore adults have the right to ingest it.

What is not OK is those who choose to smoke and then pass their habit on to others in the form of second-hand smoke drifting through open windows, ventilation systems, pipes, electrical sockets ¬ó and even tiny cracks in plaster and drywall. Studies have shown this occurs and the results can be deadly.

That’s why the Daily Press is supportive of the City Council’s 4-2 vote last week to ban new tenants from smoking in their apartments and condos. The law, as currently written, would force those currently living in apartments and condos in Santa Monica to declare their units as “smoking” or lose the right to puff indoors. Once a smoker moves out, their unit would be converted to non-smoking so that eventually all apartments and condos will be smoke-free.

But the law doesn’t go far enough. This newspaper feels that the council, when it gives final approval on Tuesday (that is unless those who voted in favor of it wimp out and change course), must put in a provision that makes all multi-unit dwellings smoke-free within three years. Setting a firm date is the best way to properly protect public health when it comes to second-hand smoke exposure in tight quarters.

Elected officials cannot let this law filter through organically by waiting for smokers to die or move out of their units. Second-hand smoke kills and therefore this community needs to move swiftly to protect the public. That means a three-year window that would allow smokers to save up and move to a city without a similar law, or take steps to quit. The three years would also give landlords time to send out proper notices to tenants and prepare for a possible exodus of smoking tenants, who will assuredly be replaced by those who prefer fresher air and Santa Monica’s amenities.

Right now there is nothing in the law that says smoking within apartments and condos is against the law, that is if the tenant registers the unit as smoking. This is a significant omission. If second-hand smoke is serious enough to warrant action from the council, elected officials need to go one step further and set a date to ban it completely. If not, future generations will continue to be exposed and develop health problems, something which has been well documented. We cannot pass the buck.

Santa Monica has taken steps to combat the dangers of second-hand smoke by passing comprehensive bans on lighting up in public areas, such as the Third Street Promenade, parks, the beach and at bus stops. Now the council needs to keep the momentum going and set a firm date as to when smoking in units, including those where smoking is currently allowed, is prohibited.

And to all those smokers out there who feel that their rights are being taken away, just think about the rights of those who have trouble sleeping at night because they cannot get away from your puffs. What about their right to enjoy their property peacefully? After all, it is your nasty habit that is impacting them, just as if a neighbor constantly played loud music late at night preventing you from getting a good night sleep. While thumping bass may be annoying, it won’t kill you. But cigarettes will.

This newspaper urges the council to move forward with an outright ban and put a plan in place to educate the public about the change. City Hall must also make sure that enough trash receptacles are in place so smokers can properly dispose of their butts, and police and community service officers need to be on the lookout for those who mindlessly toss their butts into our streets and eventually into Santa Monica Bay. We say issue tickets for littering every time a smoker carelessly disposes of their butts. It’s disgusting, it harms the environment and it is against the law.

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