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Adam Anderson

Apartment smoking ban could blaze trail across US

by Adam Anderson | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

October 22, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Cigarette buttA new ban on smoking inside condos, apartments, and other multifamily homes in California could lead to similar regulations around the country.

Last week San Rafael (just outside of San Francisco) became the ninth city in California to outlaw smoking in multi-unit homes regardless if the occupants own or rent.

While some are calling this ban tyrannical, others applaud the effort as a way to cut down on lung cancer and other smoking related diseases.

The ban is the latest regulation putting a squeeze on existing smokers and detracting others from picking up the habit. With fewer smokers (and places to smoke) fewer cigarettes will be sold — a trend that is slowly snuffing out the tobacco manufacturing industry.

Output of US tobacco products is forecast to decline by 2 percent this year and will see little to no growth for at least the next two years, according to forecast information from First Research.  US production of tobacco products fell more than 40 percent in the past decade, and industry employment fell 50 percent. The national smoking rate is about half the rate of the 1960s. Changing attitudes and increased regulation is preventing tobacco companies’ abilities to attract new smokers.

Smoking bans have been a big challenge to the industry. And California has become somewhat of a trendsetter when it comes to smoking bans. What happens there could be a signal for what is to come around the US. Cities in California were among the first to prohibit smoking inside restaurants, bars, and other building. Similar bans have been widely adopted by cities around the country.

Internationally, smoking bans are gaining traction in emerging markets. Russia (where more than 40% of the population smokes) is considering putting limits of lighting up in public.

Widespread smoking bans have forced the tobacco industry to look to other smokeless products in order to boost sales. Also, electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes that emit vapor, not smoke, are usually not included in smoking bans.

Regulation is often a major risk factor for every industry and tobacco has experienced some major hurdles and roadblocks over the years. Health advocates are pushing for a day when smoking is a distant bad memory. But do smoking bans really work? Will hooked smokers continue to find places to light up no matter what the law says?

This is crazy, I can’t believe that I’m actually reading this. God Bless America as we watch are freedoms systematically being dismantled at every opportunity.

Dave: many people feel the same way. How can the government (in this case a municipality) tell you what you can and can not do inside your own home? The law was made in effort to reduce lung cancer and other diseases caused by second hand smoke. Improperly discarded cigarettes also pose fire hazards at apartment buildings. It should be interesting to see if similar bans take hold in other cities in other states. Many people opposed no smoking inside bars/restaurants when bans those first were introduced, but now it’s commonplace.

There are a few points worth considering, which weren’t directly addressed in the article. Smoke-free homes are the norm in the US, but most apartment and condo buildings are not smoke-free. Unlike single family homes, residents in multi-unit complexes cannot protect themselves from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke, which drifts into ventilation systems, and from neighboring units, balconies and outdoor areas. In fact, as much as 30-50% of circulating air comes from other units in MUH complexes. And, filters and ventilation systems cannot remove secondhand smoke from indoor environments.

It’s not just the government and the public health community advocating for these changes. Turnover of a smoking apartment can cost building owners as much as $8,000, or several times more what it costs to turnover a non-smoking unit. Many insurance providers and large complex owners have voluntarily adopted smoke-free policies, because it’s good for their business and poses less financial and health risk to their residents.

Add to this that neither the act of smoking, nor smokers, are constitutionally protected. Tobacco companies have made billions while selling their products, which has health implications for both the smoker and nonsmoker. Tobacco companies get the profits, and we as taxpayers get the privilege of paying for the economic and societal impacts. So whose freedoms are really being tread on by protecting smokers to light up?

Kate: You raise some great points. Smoking bans inside multi-unit homes could benefit not only the health of residents (smokers and nonsmokers) but also offer savings to owners.
As we all become more aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke (no level of exposure is risk-free) we can expect to see more and more smoking bans in places that have traditionally allowed smoking. For example, I recently attended an outdoor festival where smoking was prohibited.

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