(File photo)

By Robin Sherry and Barbara Bronie

The Santa Monica City Council did pass a law that was intended to protect apartment and condominium residents from a neighbor’s tobacco smoke infiltrating their living spaces.

The law went into effect in 2012. However, the law has not been as effective as we had hoped.

The law requires no smoking in common areas and on balconies and patios of all apartments and condominiums. It also requires no smoking in all units of apartments and condos, but only for new vacancies. Existing tenants can still smoke in their apartments, and lack of enforcement means that new tenants may ignore the law. The result is many residents are probably still smoking in their apartments and condos and others are breathing that smoke.

A survey of almost 1,400 Santa Monica apartment and condominium residents in 2007 showed that 96 percent agreed that secondhand smoke is harmful to health. A follow-up survey of 108 apartment residents later that year focused on low-income communities in Santa Monica showed that 92 percent agreed with that assessment. The great majority of Santa Monica residents said they would like to live in a smoke-free environment.

Recently, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research conducted a similar survey of almost 1,000 apartment residents in low-income communities in the City of Los Angeles. Of those interviewed, 82 percent said they would prefer to live in a totally smoke-free apartment building, or at least in the non-smoking section.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that very soon, all public housing throughout the U.S. will be required to become totally smoke-free.

Also in 2015, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged policymakers throughout the nation to pass laws to ban smoking in all apartments and condominiums in the nation in order to protect public health.

Since 2012, several cities in Los Angeles County, including Pasadena, Manhattan Beach, Culver City and El Monte have adopted ordinances that require no smoking in all units, common areas and balconies/patios. In addition, the Los Angeles County Housing Authority adopted a smoke-free policy two years ago, and the L.A. City Housing Authority is planning the implementation of a smoke-free policy by 2018.

The City of Berkeley, also a city with rent control, passed an ordinance similar to Santa Monica’s law. However, Berkeley made important changes, including requiring all apartments and condos to be smoke-free, and implementing a system for enforcement that we believe will resolve the problems we are still having in Santa Monica. The Berkeley ordinance does not require evictions.

Our group, Smoke-Free Living Santa Monica, has recently been contacted by several Santa Monica residents who are complaining that the law intended to protect them from tobacco smoke is not working. We wonder if there are other Santa Monica residents who are suffering silently? We would like to hear from you at info@smokefreeapartments.org. Thank you.

Robin Sherry and Barbara Bronie are members of the steering committee of Smoke-Free Living Santa Monica.