To Ban Smoking in Apartments, or Not to Ban Smoking in Apartments? That’s Still the Question

The West Hollywood City Council, which in 1986 passed a law prohibiting smoking in public places and workplaces and in 2011 banned smoking in restaurants and public service areas, last night debated whether to extend that ban to apartment and condo buildings.

The debate, prompted by a recommendation from the city’s Rent Stabilization Commission in 2017, didn’t come to a firm conclusion, with the Council pushing the matter off for six more months. However, the proposal did attract a number of local residents who spoke in favor of such a ban, with one, suffering from asthma, pulling out and showing to the Councilpieces of the equipment she uses to decontaminate the air she breathes while in her apartment.

A report to the City Council from the city’s Department of Public Works and the Human Services and Rent Stabilization Department, notes that West Hollywood has received poor grades on smoking by the American Lung Association. “While the city earned an Overall Tobacco Control grade of ‘C’ in the 2019 State of Tobacco Control Report, it earned an ‘F’ for its smoke-free housing policies,” the reports says. “This is due to the city’s lack of any policies prohibiting smoking in apartments, condominiums, or residential common areas.”

The report cites the health risks of second-hand smoke, noting that up to 60% of the air in one’s apartment can come from an adjoining apartment, and also states that repairing and maintaining an apartment where the tenants smokes can cost an apartment owner nearly $5,000.

The report also notes that Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, each of which has rent stabilization programs and strong tenant protections, all ban smoking in multi-family buildings. In 2018 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development initiated a ban smoking on public housing.

The law that the City Council passed in 2011 not only bans smoking in restaurants, it also regulates smoking in certain public places. “Patrons are no longer allowed to smoke within five feet of outdoor dining areas and outdoor service areas such as ATM lines, information kiosks, banks, restaurants and other food service, tickets and admission to a theater or other venue, car washes, vehicle service establishments as well as valet parking pick-up areas,” says the report to the City Council. Also, a landlord currently can designate an apartment as smoke-free in its lease, but that cannot be applied to an existing tenant.

The questions put before the Council last night were, if it eventually decides to implement restrictions, were whether they should apply to both apartment buildings and condominium buildings, whether smoking should be banned in all common areas and apartments or only in common areas, whether property owners should be allowed to designate a smoking zone, and whether there should be a buffer zone outside the apartment building where smoking is banned.

One issue is how to implement and enforce such a ban if the City Council approves it. The city’s rent stabilization ordinance permits (but doesn’t require) a landlord of an existing building todesignate an apartment as smoke-free after a tenant who smokes moves out. “Generally, new incoming tenants can be required to sign smoke-free policies for all areas of the building at the start of their tenancy. Existing tenants can voluntarily agree to sign smoke-free policies, but are not required to do so,” says the report to the Council. The city’s rent stabilization law says that smoking is not a nuisance and thus a renter cannot be evicted for smoking in an apartment, however the report notes that other cities with bans on smoking in apartments levy fines against renters who violate those bans.

Councilmember John Duran, who said he doesn’t smoke, spoke out against a complete ban on smoking in apartments, saying the issue before the Council illustrates a conflict between concerns about health and the privacy rights of local residents. He also said such a ban could be seen as an unfair regulation of private property. Duran was a strong opponent of the city’s 2011 ban on smoking in restaurants and certain public places.

Last night he questioned statements about the impact of second-hand smoke on children in West Hollywood, noting that families with children constitute only 5% of the city’s population. “We are a city of adults,” he said. “We have always been a city of adults.” Duran also cited the city’s reputation as a playground in questioning a ban. “For over 100 years this has been a city that has been known for the notoriety of its nightlife,” he said.

Duran called out the implications of such a ban on the consumption of cannabis, which now is legal in California with many restrictions, including a ban on use in public places. ”…. Weed has been a part of our culture for over 100 years… part of our culture and our value system,” he said, arguing that a ban on smoking cannabis in one’s apartment would lead people to lock themselves in their bathrooms to smoke without being harassed.

Duran also said that gay residents of West Hollywood, who likely didn’t know that a proposed ban was on the Council’s agenda, probably would oppose a ban, as would members of the Russian-speaking community.

The percentage of people who smoke and identify as LGBT is higher than that in the heterosexual community. Several years ago, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched a campaign called “Break Up with Tobacco” that aimed to reduce smoking among LGBT people. It reported that LGBT people smoke at a rate 50% higher than heterosexuals. The Public Health Department estimated that 20.6% of LGBT people in Los Angeles County smoked tobacco. Representatives of Equality California, an LGBT advocacy group, last night spoke in favor of increasing restrictions on smoking.

Councilmember John Heilman disagreed with Duran’s argument about personal liberty. “Personal liberty we all are for,” he said. “But not when it impinges on my ability to breathe.”

Heilman said he saw a contradiction between the Council’s recent vote on a proposal by Duran to provide testing strips to users of illegal drugs so that they could make sure they didn’t include fentanyl, a deadly ingredient, and Duran’s oppositions to controlling second-hand smoke.

Heilman argued that all new multi-residential buildings should be smoke-free and all common areas in existing buildings should be smoke free, whether apartment buildings or condominiums.

City Councilmember Lauren Meister argued for an incremental approach, with the city first banning smoking in public parks then garages and common areas. Meister said she isn’t willing yet to ban smoking in older buildings, as Beverly Hills and Santa Monica have done. She also said the city should consider funding a program to warn residents of the dangers of smoking and also a program to help residents stop smoking.And if a landlord wants to designate a new building as non-smoking, the landlord should be required to register the units as such with the city.


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james francis
Guest
james francis

I should not be compelled to live near or have to breath in toxic cigarette smoke that can cause cancers. That is not fair to my overall health and well-being. Most seriously is that there have been fatalities and serious damage to apartments, one which destroyed the three upper floors of a crescent heights historical building because an actress’ boyfriend fell asleep with a cigarette that engulfed not only their apartment/condo but destroyed two other apartments on top of their own!Another apartment on Halloway where someone and their dog perished. A homeless encampment of the now demolished property on santa… Read more »

Jason
Guest
Jason

This is ridiculous that they are trying to ban people from smoking in there apartments they pay to rent. If they can ban people from doing this than whats next? What people do in their own homes is nobody else business.

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

I would hate to see us adopt an ordinance what would allow landlords to evict long term tenants simply because they smoke. But I suggested that the Council should have at least considered making future residential construction smoke free. Although John Heilman echoed that sentiment, the Council was too timid to take up a discussion of that idea.

Kerrigan
Guest
Kerrigan

I think this is ridiculous. I completely support a ban on smoking in public places, but not in one’s home- particularly a condo that is purchased. My neighbor likes to watch TV. He turns it up loudly. I can here it through my walls, and it disturbs me sometimes. So I knock on his door an ask him to turn it down. I don’t want to ban TV just because sometimes I am disturbed. As for health, I mean . . . we live in a city that has one of the most worst air qualities – not because of… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

Agreed! And if you own a building and want to prohibit smoking, that should be your choice, not the City’s. If second-hand smoke is bleeding into neighboring units, maybe they should pass an ordinance to prevent that. I’ve lived next to apartments where people smoke and haven’t noticed a thing, except when they are on their balconies, which I advocate should be prohibited.

Matt
Guest
Matt

I’m in for banning cars. Where do I sign the petition?

C.R.
Guest
C.R.

Agreed, cars are public health hazards and we need to get people to adopt a car free lifestyle. Pass the law, #NoCarsInWeHo #StartWalking

Manju
Guest
Manju

Last I checked TV noise was not carcinogenic. Second hand smoke is.

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

People seriously still smoke in 2019???

mark
Guest
mark

Out-of-touch Duran, we are not a city of just “adults.” You’d have to define adults and you’re far from one. Maybe a city of “barely adult children” is more fitting who are still numbing/drugging themselves by smoking and causing harm to everyone around them in the process while living in a tightly shared space. The demographics are changing Duran and you’re very out of touch with that. Most of your comments are something out of the 80s. WeHo is moving towards a community of healthy people, including conscious, drug-free gays. Smoke affects adults too and no matter how small the… Read more »

mark
Guest
mark

Smoking is a huge problem in closely shared spaces such as apartments and condos. Most people are tolerant up to a point. We had a huge problem in our building with someone smoking so excessively that the entire hall reeked of smoke. Delivery people were complaining, visitors, etc. Our board did nothing so I had to write a nice letter to all tenants asking them to please cut down on smoke and reminding them of the dangers of 2nd hand smoke and to themselves of course. Asked them to please smoke outside, on roof, or balcony (though I’ve had people… Read more »

@pbvinn
Guest
@pbvinn

#Snowflake

The Real Zam
Guest
The Real Zam

I have never smoked a day in my life, but a complete ban of smoking WHILE IN ONE’S home, is insane. Even so, I do support limited changes to mitigate the negative impact of smoking on other current and future residents. Here are some ideas: 1. Ban smoking in common areas where such activities impact non-smoking neighbors. This could expand to any area where such activity has a similarly negative impact. 2. Permit property owners to charge higher deposits for smokers which at least cover the market value of future fumigation (which may be set by the ordinance). 3. Require… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

Great ideas, but I think (2) is allowed already. I’m not aware of any restrictions on how much a property owner can charge for a deposit. Maybe rent control imposes a limit of some type.

Observer
Guest
Observer

Like cigars are not even worse than cigarettes?

PeteP
Guest
PeteP

I continue to be blown away that there are people who still smoke and I do not understand why WeHo is so behind the times on the regulation of smoking. Second hand smoke is both dangerous and extremely annoying. Smoking should be outlawed in all public spaces including patios at bars. There seems to be no regard for the health of non-smokers. Years ago, when the first bans on smoking in bars were being considered, the bar owners made dire predictions about loss of business, etc. Guess what? Instead, all of the people who were repulsed by the smoke started… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

I think this discussion pertains more to what people do in their homes, not in common areas (I would include a balcony as a “common area,” because it affects neighbors around them more than the interior of their dwelling.

C.R.
Guest
C.R.

Yes, the bars are still thriving because they still have an option for smokers, that being the smoking patios. If you ban smoking entirely, it’s still going to have a negative impact on the bars’ business. There has to be a compromise.

PeteP
Guest
PeteP

That’s nonsense. Most of the time there are only a couple of smokers on the patio of WeHo bars, but they annoy the crap out of everyone else. It’s a habit for losers.

Observer
Guest
Observer

No, it’s now become a habit/addiction for the wealthy who can afford $8 (or more) for a pack of cigarettes. Let the 1% be the losers.

Dithering
Guest
Dithering

Given that this has been in the public consciousness since 2011, it was more than disheartening to watch the tedious and mind boggling discussion last evening. Do these folks not do their homework? With the parade of informed sourced, the council members appeared as a group of dithering placeholders unable to make a clear cut decision. How much time does one need to make a decision? One can see where the budget goes.