Richmond, CA, a city of about 100,000 people located in San Francisco’s East Bay, has passed a local ordinance that will ban smoking in all apartment buildings. The new law comes on the heels of another smoking ordinance passed earlier this year that prohibits smoking in public places such as parks, parades and farmer’s markets.
Richmond’s new ordinance, which prohibits smoking in all multi-unit housing facilities, is one of the strictest anti-smoking laws in the nation. Only two other towns, Belmont and Calabasas, both in California, have similiar types of restrictions that extend to residences. Dublin, also located in the East Bay, passed a less restrictive ban, which requires that half the units in apartment buildings with more than 16 units must be smoke-free.
Councilman Tom Butts, seemed to acknowledge that the Richmond City Council reviewed a variety of proposal’s before passing the outright ban, stating “This idea that somehow you could bifurcate buildings and make portions of it smoking, portions of it nonsmoking, it just doesn’t work.” Indeed, we have heard how smoke travels between rental units through the smallest of channels, such as electrical sockets.
We have reported on local and state government’s efforts to pass laws that protect renters from secondhand smoke in apartments for the past year or so. We have seen lawsuits, restraining orders, redundant state legislation, outright bans and owners devising policies suit their renters.
We tend to think that apartment owners should have the right to make the rules for their apartments, since they will act in a way that will please the largest amount of their tenants. If a tenant does not like a certain policy, then they can choose to move into a different apartment. If the owner enacts sweeping changes, such as a smoking ban, then a tenant should have an opportunity to break their lease without penalty.
What do you think? Does the government have a responsibility to ensure that it’s citizens are not exposed to dangerous elements in their apartments? Should an apartment owner be forced to enact certain policies? Apartments must remove asbestos, but you can’t exactly buy a pack of asbestos at the store.
Have you witnessed disputes amongs renters over secondhand smoke? Have you lived or worked in an apartment complex that adopted smoking policies?