News

Debates heat up over second-hand smoke bans

New ordinances point to growing intolerance of secondhand smoke in apartments, condos and townhouses

The apartment doors at the Lytton Gardens independent-living units in Palo Alto are adorned with colorful, homey touches: a resident's name in needlepoint or a cheerful wall hanging.

The fluorescent-pink sign on De'Lois Turner's door expresses a more serious sentiment:

"Second-Hand Smoke = Death!" the sign reads, hinting at a certain tension within the complex.

Turner, 67, is hopping mad at Lytton's executives for allowing smoking at the multistory residence at 330 Everett Ave. Turner says that residents are smoking in their rooms and in a front-patio area designated for smokers that is too close to the building, allowing smoke to drift inside.

The smoke has irritated her eyes and sinuses, she said.

"I inquired before I moved here if there was smoking. I'm allergic to cigarette smoke," she said, her eyes red. "Why should I have to live like I'm coming down with the flu each and every day?"

Turner's complaint is one echoed by many residents in multi-family housing throughout the area. Secondhand smoke in apartments, townhouses and condominiums is the No. 1 complaint received by the nonprofit Breathe California of the Bay Area's secondhand-smoke helpline, according to Dennis Acha, director of programs.

But now, cities and counties are crafting ordinances to address the issue.

A spate of city and county ordinances adopted recently limit where residents may light up. And all of the ordinances allow residents to file civil suits against violators.

But while 78 percent of Californians in a 2008 state study supported restricting smoking to designated areas and not within buildings, balconies and patios, some local residents called the ordinances discriminatory. And an association that represents apartment-building owners would rather see the owners determine whether their complexes are smoke-free, not city or county governments.

City limits

Cracking down on secondhand smoke both inside and outside of multifamily residences is heating up. On Sept. 28, the Menlo Park City Council unanimously passed new regulations that will fine violators $50 for the first offense and $100 for the second offense in a 12-month period if they smoke outside of designated areas, such as patios or where required signs permit smoking

The City of Belmont adopted a secondhand smoke ordinance in 2007 that prohibits smoking within 20 feet of a multistory residence and contains provisions against people who are complaining about smoking violations getting harassed. (The ordinance does allow smoking marijuana for medical purposes.)

Santa Clara County passed a stringent ordinance Oct. 19 that bans smoking in residential units and limits smoking to areas beyond a 30-foot radius of multi-unit housing. It applies only to unincorporated areas of the county. It is expected to be finalized on Nov. 9 after a second reading.

Santa Clara County plans to use some funding out of a $7 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to educate the public about three new ordinances related to smoking, including the multifamily-dwelling ordinance. Other ordinances include a ban on smoking in county parks and requirements for tobacco-retailer permits, with several product restrictions, Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss said.

The county health department and Breathe California also plan to advocate similar smoking ordinances in cities within the county.

"We're really going after this in a big way," Kniss, a former social smoker, said. The board's vote on the measure, which was introduced by Supervisor Ken Yeager, himself a former heavy smoker, was unanimous.

"I really think it will make an enormous difference in public health, and I hope more cities will adopt similar ordinances," said Kniss, a nurse.

Public-health specialists applauded the county decision.

"It's a big public-health issue now," said Francis Capili, health-education specialist for Santa Clara County Department of Public Health Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Division.

"Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 200 known poisons and 43 cancer-causing chemicals. Secondhand smoke kills about 54,000 non-smokers every year and has been classified as a Class A carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke," he said.

Health is not the only concern from second-hand smoke. Fatal fires are also linked to the smoking habit, and the Santa Clara County ordinance noted the fire hazards related to smoking in homes.

Cigarettes, pipes and cigars are the leading causes of fire deaths in the United States. In 2007, there were 140,700 smoking-related fires resulting in 720 deaths and 1,580 injuries and $530 million in property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

The danger can be acute in homes with seniors and persons with disabilities. Smoking at a residence where there are oxygen tanks and long-term oxygen therapy caused 27 percent of fatalities in fires at multi-family dwellings, the Fire Administration reported.

State laws already do not allow smoking in senior-care facilities where skilled nursing is in the same building as housing. Channing House in Palo Alto, for example, does not allow any smoking in the building or on the grounds, spokeswoman Letitia Roddy said. Likewise, Lytton Gardens does not permit smoking at its skilled-nursing facility. But smoking is allowed in some older apartment buildings, Gery Yearout, Lytton's executive director said.

Who should decide?

Not everyone's happy about the ordinances that have been popping up.

In the view of the California Apartment Association, Tri-County Division, non-smoking shouldn't be legislated. The organization represents owners of multi-family rental housing in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

"Owners and managers of rental properties should be free to establish the smoking or non-smoking policies and procedures that best meet the needs of their residents, their businesses operations and the market," Executive Director Joshua Howard said.

Currently, most cities do not have ordinances against smoking in multi-unit dwellings, but some building owners do impose restrictions.

A 2009 survey of rental-property owners in California found that one third of rental units in the state are smoke-free, Howard noted.

Still, renting to smokers can be costly, as apartments must be repainted, re-carpeted or have new draperies to get rid of smoke odors and smoke stains, he said.

Acha of Breathe California acknowledged that landlords can feel caught in the middle when the issue of smoking arises.

"I'm an apartment-building owner, and I experience on a daily basis what callers (to the Breathe hotline) are complaining about. Many landlords don't want to deal with the problem. They don't want to be in conflict," he said.

Belmont, Menlo Park and the county have done extensive outreach to the apartment association, Howard said. The Belmont and Santa Clara County ordinances provide a 14-month phase-in that provides owners time to implement the policies and amend lease agreements.

Renters who just signed a lease agreement for 12 months were also able to live in their units for the year before having to make other arrangements if they wanted to continue smoking inside, he said.

The landlords are also not liable if residents violate the law, provided they have made certain provisions in their rental agreements.

"It's very difficult for a property owner to know when someone's taking that two-minute cigarette break and to run over and be the smoking police," Howard said.

Kniss said county supervisors worked with the apartment association to come up with a workable law.

"The real goal is to get something that will make a difference in the end," Kniss said.

The no-smoking ordinances give residents legal clout, and many ordinances are framed with clauses under municipal nuisance codes. Santa Clara County's law references nuisance law as a cause for the ordinance's validity and also prohibits harassment or threats against anyone reporting illegal smoking.

"Allowing smoking in multi-unit housing complexes exposes adults and children to a cancer-causing substance against their will. Secondhand smoke can travel throughout multi-unit housing complexes through shared ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems," the county health department's Capili said.

Air-cleaning systems cannot remove secondhand smoke from indoor environments, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the U.S. standard-setting organization on ventilation issues.

"It's a hardship for people with chronic conditions," Acha, of Breathe California, said.

"The No. 1 complaint today on our smoke help line is multi-unit housing. Ten years ago, when I started working here it was about non-compliant bars and restaurants."

Palo Alto's take on a possible ordinance

Palo Alto hasn't considered a non-smoking ordinance for multi-family dwellings but could "give it serious consideration if the county health department advocated it," Mayor Pat Burt said recently when asked about a possible ordinance.

Councilman Sid Espinosa added that he was surprised Palo Alto residents have not advocated for a similar city smoking ordinance.

"I haven't heard this complaint from other constituents, which surprises me considering the high percentage of Palo Altans who are renters," he said.

The city has a history of banning smoking, having eliminated smoking in restaurants in 1992.

"There was such an outcry," Kniss, a former City Council member, said, noting that businesses thought the ban would harm their bottom line. "But a year later, business improved."

Sitting on the front steps of his Webster Street apartment building last week, smoker Conrad Lenox took a drag from his cigarette. He understands the reason for an ordinance but wouldn't vote for it if given the choice.

He said he does not smoke inside because he knows smoke can get into air vents. He smokes outside where the smoke "dissipates" and doesn't affect others, he said.

"I try to be sensitive to my neighbors. God bless them, I wish I was one of them," Lenox said. Asking tenants to not smoke inside is a reasonable request, he added.

At Laning Chateau, a large Forest Avenue complex, one smoker said people in her building respect the rule of not smoking within. Anyone who is caught receives a notice to refrain.

Smoking outside isn't a guarantee that residents won't be affected, she said. One resident asked her to move because smoke from her cigarette was blowing in the window.

The smoker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she's glad smoking isn't allowed in the building. She doesn't like to smell it.

"It's a bad habit. It's filthy, even though I smoke," she said.

Belmont Police Captain Dan DeSmidt said the department received about two-dozen complaints regarding violators when the law first took effect. But three years later, "we very rarely get calls. The law has been successful in that it has changed people's behavior, he said.

During city meetings, there were impassioned discussions about the law but since then "there has been a lot of cooperation from managers and owners and residents," he said.

DeSmidt said the public outreach was a critical component in the law's success. Police had a number of community meetings and group meetings inside affected dwellings to clear up any misunderstandings.

"It was widely reported that smoking was banned in the city, but that was not the case," he said.

As for Lytton Gardens, the housing complex is considering a change in its policy, Yearout said.

She defended the facilities' enforcement of its current rules, however.

Smoking is not allowed in Turner's Everett Avenue apartment building but is allowed on a common-use patio and on balconies, according to Yearout.

"We believe smoking occurs but in legal areas. We see no signs of smoking, nor has the fire department seen or smelled any sign of a violation, but they may well be smoking where it is allowed," she said.

That is not good enough, Turner said. The patio area is only 5 feet from the building and smoke drifts in through the front door, she said.

She pointed to a balcony at the rear of the building. Two apartments share the balcony, and their doors are side by side. Smokers who light up might not be technically breaking the rules, but their smoke can drift right into the windows and door of the adjacent apartment, she said.

But not everyone at Lytton agreed with Turner about smoking.

While six residents have signed a petition against smoking, other residents are not so sure.

Asked how they felt about the county ordinance and if they would support a Palo Alto ban, some residents reacted angrily.

"Why would they want to discriminate against smokers?" said a woman who asked to remain anonymous.

But an ordinance might actually help some smokers kick the habit, according to the Laning Chateau resident.

"Considering I smoked for 10 years and just started again, it would probably be a good thing," she said.

Editorial Intern Sally Schilling contributed to this story.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Second-hand smoke complaints are the number 1 complaint received by a secondhand-smoke helpline???? Get right out of town! One would think that the second-hand smoke helpline gets more complaints about barking dogs or loud music. Does 911 also receive many emergency calls??


Like this comment
Posted by JT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I've never seen an obituary in the newspaper that listed second-hand smoke as the cause of death.


2 people like this
Posted by b.e.b.
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

JT, second-hand smoke can certainly cause medical issues as well as aggravate existing ones. Death shouldn't be the only measure here -- quality of life concerns are valid. I can't open the side door of my apartment on hot days or to let fresh air in because every 20-30 minutes, my neighbor goes outside to light up, filling my entire kitchen, dining area and living room with her poisonous smoke. Even if you want to argue the point of how dangerous it is, it smells terrible.


Like this comment
Posted by couldn't get out of apts fast enough
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

JT, you need to go to sources like the American Lung Association and The American Heart Association for the list of diseases associated with second-hand smoke, studies on increase of death from heart attack when particulates reach a certain concentration, etc.

Worse than smokers, is allowing people in multistory structures to barbecue close to the building. When I lived in apartments, I'd come home to find a heavy layer of smoke we could see in the air, followed by a greasy smoky residue all over everything in my apartment, whenever the people downstairs stoked up the barbecue, which they did at least once a week. We walled off our chimney, sealed the windows, everything we could think of, and still we got smoked out -- it's like our apartment WAS the chimney for the barbecue downstairs. Thankfully, our stay was only temporary, but it was terrible. The people downstairs weren't angry jerks or anything, they just couldn't be persuaded to "get it" and continued blithely with their barbecues, apparently believing they were outside so their smoke wasn't a problem.

The smoke issue was one of my biggest motivators for getting back into homeownership.


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 29, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Great points! Why should people who can't afford their own house be allowed to smoke or BBQ? How long have they been getting away with this??


Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2010 at 7:11 am

If this is a real problem then you should definitely should ban mobile phones and electric power lines which are more dangerous than second hand smoke. In fact the evidence on health problems from SHS is inconclusive.
Web Link

If smoking is banned everywhere why is government still extorting taxes for a product nobody is allowed to use? Oh yeah, to pay for services that non smokers use.

Now that it's ok to discriminate against a lifestyle choice in private spaces it won't be long before sanctimonious anti smokers find out what it means to be disenfranchised on the basis of lies.


Like this comment
Posted by ban it all
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 30, 2010 at 7:22 am

b.e.b. you must be kidding..all the windows in your apartment suck in your neighbor's smoke?

btw, do you ever cook and the smoke goes into your neighbor's house? Use perfume that nauseates her? Burn nauseating incense that gives your neighbor headaches?

I think we should outlaw all cooking, perfume and burning incense in townhomes, condos and apartments.




Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2010 at 8:08 am

JT writes:

"I've never seen an obituary in the newspaper that listed second-hand smoke as the cause of death."

Although this was not known when I was a child, it turns out that second-hand smoke *is* a major public health issue. JT -- I'm guessing that you are probably a smoker -- yes, your second-hand smoke *does* affect the health of those around you significantly: do some research and you will realize this.

Because this is a classic battle over your right to smoke and my right to not breathe your smoke -- there may be compromises. Maybe there is a technical solution. There are some devices that do a fairly good job of absorbing the smoke from the burning cigarette in an ashtray device. Combined with a room air filter, it might work well enough that your neighbors would be unaware of your smoking.


Like this comment
Posted by juist candid
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Oct 30, 2010 at 8:24 am

Neighborhood is not valid. I only visit Calif (from MD) 2-3 times per year. Why sould taxpayers be subsudising rent for people who have money to burn up smoking cigarettes? Why should all non-smokers have to put up with toxic poisons found in all cigarette smoke? 0>:- ] PS/ No I've never heard of second or third hand tobacco smoke killing anyone, but it's well known to harm peoples health. It adversely affects peoples eyes, breathing and heart + more. Bummer!!!!:(


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2010 at 8:53 am

JT
(1) Obituaries don't usually list cause of death, they usually review the person's life.

(2) Smoking affects the health of family members of the smokers and others. My friend "C" died of lung cancer and never smoked....but her husband did. The guilt after she died was hell for him.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

neighbor writes:, a resident of another community, 42 minutes ago

"Smoking affects the health of family members of the smokers and others. My friend "C" died of lung cancer and never smoked....but her husband did. The guilt after she died was hell for him."

Yes. About 85-90% of lung cancer is directly attributed to smokers smoking. About 10-15% is caused by second hand smoke, pollution from smelters, pollution from diesel trucks, asbestos, radon gas, other factors, and metastases from other cancers in the body, some of which are also due to smoking. Statistically, almost all lung cancer appears to be environmental. In some cases, a combination of factors results in extremely high rates-- e.g., smoking + heavy asbestos exposure. Because of these interactions, it is a little hard to give exact figures for second hand smoke (people have made these estimates, though), but, it is a major risk. Not to mention increase risk of heart disease, asthma, and bronchitis-- yes, all from second-hand smoke.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2010 at 10:10 am

It is really down to being good neighbors. A good neighbor is mindful of neighbors in terms of loud music and other unsociable activities, but forgets that smoke is just as unpleasant. Whether the smoke comes from barbeques, cigarettes or pot, it is really unpleasant.

Having grown up in a home with a heavy smoker and having worked in an office with heavy smokers, I know that it is really unpleasant apart from being bad from my health. Smokers are usually not just bad about their smoke, but also bad about their ash and their butts.

I think something like this should really be on the "how to be good neighbors list" along with loud music, unsociable machine noise and barking dogs. Yes, second hand smoke is bad for our health along with a lot of other things. But the biggest problem is its nuisance issue.


Like this comment
Posted by couldn't get out of apts fast enough
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Koa,
Maybe you were the neighbor on the first floor of my apartment! LOL

It's actually a serious thing, when there's so much smoke it sets off your smoke alarm and you have a three -year-old with asthma.

The trouble is that people barbecue in their tiny deck space, so the smoke rises right into the spaces into the apartment. The apartmnet building we had had nice areas for people to barbecue away from the buildings, but the guy on the first floor liked to barbecue close to the building. So it's not about whether people can afford to own a home, it's about whether they're willing to barbecue a few feet away from the building so they don't send their neighbors' kids to the hospital.

The other problem is that barbecuing so close to buildings is a fire hazard for every one else, too.


Like this comment
Posted by Alice
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 30, 2010 at 9:04 pm

In addition to second-hand smoke and barbecuing, there's another hazard that unfortunately has been ignored too long -- flatulence. Like deadly tobacco smoke, this very toxic gas can seep through underwear, outerwear and penetrate the walls of a condo or single-family home. Yes, there have been cases where such a gas cloud has traveled to a neighbor's house and settled over a kitchen or child's room. Anti-smoking zealots always suspiciously ignore this deadly gas when discussing the hazards that enter our noses. The obese are some of the most flagrant producers of flatulence. Thankfully, county supervisor Liz Kniss has been fighting obesity by banning toys in happy meals. Her proposed "bean ban" is another step in the right direction. Obviously the county needs to do more to combat flatulence, the original "second-hand" gas.


Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I've got to agree with Alice's comments, but I've never heard of this "bean ban." What's that about?


Like this comment
Posted by Hamilton Burger
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 31, 2010 at 12:14 am

"Neighbor" skirts the issue when he says obituaries don't list the cause of death. Death certificates do. So how many list "second-hand smoke" as the cause? Zip, nada, zero.


Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2010 at 1:49 pm

One fact is being ignored in this thread. Breathing is not optional. If we are going to live, we have to breathe. Smoking is a choice. Those who choose to smoke should have every right to do within designated limits that truly prevent the transmission of secondhand smoke. Those who smoke DO NOT have right to force the rest of us to smoke - indoors or out. This is about a lifestyle choice versus a vital function so basic it is deemed 'involuntary'.


Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2010 at 5:03 pm

"Hamilton Burger"
Death certificates wont and don't list second hand smoke as cause of death. They also don't list "lifelong smoker" as cause of death. Smoking or second hand smoke does not kill you, the diseases caused by that smoke are the thing that kills you and is so listed on death certificate.
You also won't see Eating double cheese bacaon burgers 7-10 times a week listed as cause of death. The heart disease caused by eating those burgers is what killed that person.
You also will never see "unprotected sex with IV drug user" listed as cause of death. The disease contracted by that action is what leads to death, most often by damaging your immune system and your bodies normal ability to fight disease.
Smoking is a choice the smoker makes, a choice that has been known for many decades to contribute to disease and early death, increased health costs, fires, litter, pollution, maintenance costs, etc.
If tobacco was discovered today and you wanted to maket it as a smoking material for humans it would be made illegal and prohibited.
I don't want to inhale anyones smoke, I chose to be a non smoker.
There are all kinds of laws on the books to protect other people from being harmed, killed or impacted by other peoples personal choices. Noise ordinances, construction hour restrictions, pollution laws, haz mat laws, approved burn days, etc.
If you were exposed to second hand exposure to chemicals from a refinery or chemical company you would have recourse options available against the source generator. Maybe that is what people should start doing to combat second hand smoke exposure, litigation against the primary smoker, ie generator.
The only reason smoking is legal period, is because of greed by the tobacco industry and the political contributions and actions that lobby works very hard at.
Second hand smoke affects others and can harm or kill people exposed to that smoke. My persoanl opinion is, a smokers right to smoke ends the min I have to inhale that smoke or have my kids exposed to it. My clothes or my property as well. No different than spray painting a car in my driveway and having the fumes waft into my neighbors home, backyard BBQ party or making their drapes or clothes smell like my multi compound 3 part auto paint chemicals.


Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Well said, Jake. Walking down University Avenue in the evening has become unpleasant as the air is constantly filled with smoke from the smokers who would say that 'they are out of doors and the smoke dissipates into the air'. No, it doesn't. In such an enviromentally oriented community, this is condoned pollution, and, from the casual discarding of cigarette butts, littering. People who wouldn't throw a food wrapper on the ground have no problem leaving a still-burning cigarette wherever they happen to toss it.

Please, use common sense. Fine , people want to smoke; if they haven't figured out the health hazards that is their choice. But then have designated smoking areas throughout town where they can smoke in peace, and not harm the rest of us.


Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I really hate cigarette smoke! It is as if people don't realize that they are killing themselves and making life miserable for those around them!

Several of neighbors smoke. We live in an apartment, and their secondhand smoke literally comes into our house through our kitchen wall from one of our neighbors. The other neighbor walks right by our window exhaling smoke as he goes and checks the mail each day. Since our windows only open on that side of our house, the fan draws his smoke and spreads it through the house.

Our neighbors know that this bothers us. My husband has politely mentioned to them that he gets intense sinus headaches from the chemicals in the smoke. Yet these neighbors continue to exercise their "right" to smoke each day at our expense.

Can ANYTHING be done to stop this? We have quietly spoken to our landlord, but she told us that there is nothing that she can do.

When we lived in Texas, there were several city and county ordinances that prohibited smoking in apartments, public buildings, restaurants and even bars. It would be nice to have some sort of "clean air" freedom in our own apartment! We would have never rented it if we would have known that our neighbor was a heavy smoker.

:-P

BTW, does anyone else think that it is incredibly ironic that some residents of California are trying to penalize cigarette smokers and cigarette companies while also encouraging the legalization of marijuana?


Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

I feel that the whole 'anti-smoking' campaign is taking the wrong tack by emphasizing the health impact on the smokers themselves. Either smokers get or they don't, or they choose to ignore it. So be it. What they DON'T whave the right to do is to inflict that choice, and its consequences upon others; this is a public health issue which is being ignored. We are so concerned about the 'rights' of the smokers- what about the rights of the non-smokers who are forced to smoke when others around them do? Non- smoking is our natural state- we don't come out of the womb puffing a cigarette. We do pop out needing to breathe clean air.


Like this comment
Posted by mike
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 10:22 am

JT,


Not sure if you know how to read but the column said 54,000 people die from second hand smoke. Perhaps your smoking has killed some brain cells


Like this comment
Posted by Millie
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 1, 2010 at 11:33 am

Smokers pay taxes, too.


Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Who cares if "smokers pay taxes too"?

So the taxes they pay on a pack of cigs gives them the right or the green light to expose others to the smokers second hand smoke?
The taxes they pay are not worth my life or health! Their decision to slowly kill themself by smoking shouldnt impact my life or health.
People get speeding tickets or arrested for reckless driving because they may hurt or kill themself or others. Paying DMV registration and vehicle related taxes do not permit them to harm others.


Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm

We all pay taxes, that has nothing to do with it. We are discussing the impact that smokers' smoke has upon everyone else, and whether they have the right to impose that choice to smoke the people around them, who can't avoid it.


Like this comment
Posted by couldn't get out of apts fast enough
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Turns out my neighbor smoking us out with his barbecue was breaking the law -- barbecues must be at least 10 feet from multiunit housing: Web Link

May all of you making light of this experience the joy of your dwelling as a someone else's chimney.


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2010 at 4:29 pm

From your article:

"Last year, California fire officials adopted the International Fire Code as state regulation, but rejected one recommendation to ban propane and charcoal grills on patios or balconies at apartment complexes and other multi-family dwellings.

Instead, the state left it to officials in individual cities and counties to decide for themselves if they want to put the kibosh on grilled kielbasas."

Unless Palo Alto/SC County has adopted that code, they weren't breaking any law.


Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2010 at 9:49 pm

"could get out of apts fast enough"

The linked story mentioned a detail about the law, "non sprinklered"
buildings.
It appears the code was written to prevent fires on decks and patios from spreading from deck to deck and unit to unit of multi residential residential units.
I don't think the code writers were addressing "second hand smoke" issue.
The fire sprinklers will hopefully contain a small fire or put it out prior to the FD arrival. The sprinklers will do nothing to contain or prevent nearby residents from being exposed to smoke from marinated flank steak smoke or smells from a meal being cooked in a BBQ or gas grill.


Like this comment
Posted by saphire
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I live in a senior apartment community in Placentia and the smoking situation is bad. I am a cancer survivor and have been exposed to smoke many many times. One really sweet lady has congestive heart failure. She is too innocent to realize the harm that these cigarettes all around the place are doing to her. I hear people coughing and wheezing much of the time. People are out on their patios smoking. I walked down the hallway on the first floor and a lady was opening her door and I got a lung full. Why on earth is this not recognized and banned immediately from multi-housing units inside, outside and around? As I look across from my living room window I see a man lighting up each evening on his patio.

Does anyone have a suggestion of a community where I can live that is smoke-free and a nice place to live?

I smoked years ago and it is a hard habit to get rid of. With help and determination you can stop and improve your quality of life as well as that of your family, friends, pets and all of us. Do it, you will feel a lot better and breathe easier. This addiction is controlling you and your health and who wants that?


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 2, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I had a relative in Lytton Gardens. Always got second hand smoke from the apt below through the heating vent even when the heat was off. And yes it did affect my relatives health. And the management wouldn't do anything about it except say they'd speak to the other resident. The obvious solution would be to replace the vents so air didn't leak between the apts but that would have cost money.


Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 3, 2010 at 10:08 am

Bill,

Your relative must have been so frustrated. 'Talking' is useless, and as Sapphire points out, these people are in the grip of an addiction and blind to the impact it has upon others. But this is not a 'freedom of expression' issue- it is a health issue, and our values are completely backward when the smokers appear to able to force the rest of us to smoke, which is what is happening now.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

Smokers and smoking areas should be on the top floors of buildings then the smoke will rise and not bother those below. If someone wants to be able to smoke on their balcony then they have to live on the top floor even though they may not want to. Give them these type of choices. Let them see that their habit is going to cost them inconvenience.


Like this comment
Posted by cstraight
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 3, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Since some start-ups opened up on our block (College Terrace), I've suddenly started getting cigarette smoke drifting through our windows. And cigarette butts have started showing up on the sidewalk and at our front steps and stairwell. Please someone tell me where I can find that second-hand smoke helpline!


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Posted by itsjustme
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

@b.e.b. wrote:

"I can't open the side door of my apartment on hot days or to let fresh air in because every 20-30 minutes, my neighbor goes outside to light up, filling my entire kitchen, dining area and living room with her poisonous smoke. Even if you want to argue the point of how dangerous it is, it smells terrible."

I have the same problem. The pot smoke smells even worse and there are a lot of potheads in our city. The rights of smokers end where the rights of others begin. The public has the right not to breathe secondhand smoke if they so choose.


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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm

The public has the right to not breathe secondhand smoke. Period.


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Posted by Jason
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

All propaganda of second hand smoke are just that. Propaganda distributed by the poeple against smoking. Everything that has came out about second hand smoke has been exaggerated and distorted and lied about to america so that more people will agree with their agenda. If you truly do the research, without biasness, you will find that the surveys, tests, and results, are more in favor of second hand smoke being little to no significance, when it's affects are measured. And let's be quite honest, all environmental dangers are lumped together and called second hand smoke. Anything that has to do with the lungs, is said to be caused by second hand smoke, which it isn't. Lung cancer was around long before cigarettes, and will still be found in non-smaokers, period. This has nothing to do with second hand smoke exposure. Read the true reports, not those from the FDA, or environental groups, who have something to gain by their reports.

Web Link

Fact: There is NO link between lung cancer and second hand smoke exposure


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Posted by Jason
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm

And while you guys are all at it over nose irritants, why don't we ban microwave popcorn. This has got to be the worst smelling thing to come out of a kitchen period. Especially while I sit at work and have to smell these people who say they love the taste of burnt popcorn. Seriously people? I am trying to work and all they can think about is eating their burnt popcorn, not even thinking about their coworkers. If we're going to try and ban one irritant, they should all be banned. Perfume, cologne, burnt popcorn, smelly dog, body odor, flatulence, the real second hand smoke car pollutants, oh and the really popular BBQ grills, among other nasty things.


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Posted by Jason
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

See, here's the real problem people, arrogance. Self centered, my problem means more than yours, arrogance. You think for some reason, your problems mean more than others. When really it's just about everyone, yes that's right, EVERYONE, giving in a little. Everyone should respect the rights off others. You should know that there is bound to be something that your neighbor does that you don't like. Whether it's a barking dog, exhaust fumes, BBQ, ciogarette smoke, whatever. While our neighbors need to be considerate of us, we also need to be considerate of them. Just because we don't like it, doesn't mean that they shouldn't be aloud to enjoy what makes them happy. We should learn how to cope with, and live with, the little nuances that we don't like. Intstead of thinking that everyone should bwo to your whims and needs, and adjust their life according to how you live yours. I have a child who was allergic to smoke growing up. and I had to adjust a lot of things. When people came to my house, they were not allowed to smoke inside, but I didn't go running across the street to bitch out my neighbor cause he was smoking outside and the wind just happened to decide to blow in my direction. I would close the door, go inside, and learn how to cope with my neighbors doing something that I didn't necessarily agree with. Smokers give a little, and give a littler more. Smokers have been showing consideration, tolerance, and getting better. They are moving away from doorways, going outside, and are recently starting to pick up butts(yaay!). But what are non-smokers doing? How are they giving a little? How are they coexisting? They are not, they are bitching like little whiny girls, cause they aren't fully getting their way. Grow up America, and learn to coexist with other people that every now and then, do things that you don't like.


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Posted by Jason
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

And for those of you wondering, no I do not smoke.


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Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2010 at 11:23 am

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is hundreds or thousands of times as dilute as mainstream smoke. Casual exposure to ETS (say a couple of hours per week in a bar) exposes the non-smoker to perhaps one ten-thousandth of what a smoker gets. Although the amount that gets into the bloodstream might be measurable in a laboratory, the effect on the exposee would be difficult or impossible to detect. Other factors such as the drinks our poor non-smoker consumed while in the bar will potentially have far worse effects than the second-hand smoke they inhaled.


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Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2010 at 11:26 am

In studies conducted by the World Health Organization, statistically significant evidence was found that childhood exposure to cigarette smoke cuts the risk of lung cancer by 22 per cent. But, because WHO was so "focused" on finding "proof" of an extra cancer risk in statistically non-significant evidence, it was blind to seeing anything at all in significant evidence for a lower cancer risk. As a result, these results were ignored by WHO and not reported in the news media.


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Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm

On July 17, 1998, United States District Judge William L. Osteen vacated Chapters 1-6 of and the Appendices to EPA's Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and other Disorders, EPA/600/6-90/006F (December 1992).

Judge Osteen wrote, "In conducting the ETS Risk Assessment, the EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information; did not disseminate significant epidemiologic information; deviated from its Risk Assessment Guidelines; failed to disclose important findings and reasoning; and left significant questions without answers. EPA's conduct left substantial holes in the administrative record. While so doing, produced limited evidence, then claimed the weight of the Agency's research evidence demonstrated ETS causes cancer."


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Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm

The reason science enjoys such weight and credibility is that it has generally been structured so as to encourage a wide scrutiny of methods, data and findings, peer review and a healthy debate from all viewpoints. In the end, faulty data and fanciful theories are laid to rest, and truth emerges the winner. Usually.

Scientists, like everyone else, are subject to personal bias. They can set out to prove a pet theory, they can ignore data which contradicts a favored hypothesis, and they can read into data facts which simply aren't there. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, their employers can be biased. Employers can put pressure on researchers or even research firms to validate a preordained position or to produce a desired result. Not that they really have to, since it is much easier to hire or retain investigators who agree with them to begin with. And even that is not necessary, since the employer gets to write conclusions and recommendations. Scientists who dissent can effectively be buried simply by not publishing what they have to say.

In an open and honest world, all of this would amount to little, since all sides would have their say and we could count on disinterested observers to wade through the fancy and glean the facts. In the case of secondhand smoke, for example, it is near impossible to find anyone who is both disinterested and of sufficient standing to be heard. What we have instead is a war of credibility over conflicting interpretations of biased reports. What we have is politics.

On one side are anti-smokers and the EPA. On the other, smokers and the tobacco companies. At this moment, the antis and the EPA clearly have the upper hand, enjoying as they do a credibility which is just as clearly undeserved. No one is surprised that the tobacco companies have a financial agenda. The same people, on the other hand, express astonishment at the suggestion that the government might actually have a political agenda. Or at the fact that the government, too, is an employer, with more power than most to select and pressure the scientists it employs and to bury the ones that dissent. Nowhere is this power more abused than on the subject of ETS. Last year's EPA report on ETS, the cornerstone of the anti-smokers' arguments, is worse than just bad science.

It is corrupt.


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Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Corrupt science has two salient characteristics. First, instead of starting with a hypothesis and data and deriving from that a conclusion, it does just the opposite: starting with a desired conclusion, it then selects data in order to support the hypothesis. Second, it stifles dissent by excluding dissenters from the process of review and by using ad hominem arguments to question their character and motives. The EPA is guilty on both counts.


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Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Nov 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

The phrase "respiratory illnesses", when used in connection with ETS, is usually found appended to a list of other claims, as in "cancer, heart disease and...". It seems to round off the list nicely and is purposely left vague. If pressed, anti-smokers will, as if by rote, recite "... such as asthma, colds, influenza and pneumonia". But none of these ailments is caused by smoking, much less by ETS. Pressed further, the antis will backpedal to the claim that ETS "aggravates" these conditions. The degree of this "aggravation" I shall examine in a moment. First, however, some interesting numbers bear looking at.
Since 1979, the number of smokers has declined significantly, from about 33% of adults, or higher, to a proportion varyingly reported as being from 20% to 25%. During the same period, a host of anti-smoking laws have dramatically curtailed smoking in public places. Today, exposure to ETS is not one tenth of what it was in 1979. Yet, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News (October 12, 1993), fatal asthma attacks have nearly doubled in that time. More than 5,100 Americans suffered fatal asthma attacks in 1991, up from about 2,600 in 1979. Clearly, some scapegoat other than ETS will have to be found.
So where are the mystery deaths caused by "respiratory illnesses" that can be blamed on ETS? There aren't any. The diabolical innuendo of the phrase "... cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses" causes many to believe people die this way and to repeat the rumor. But it is akin to saying "nuclear bombs, biological warfare and firecrackers."
So far, in this country anti-smokers have enjoyed free rein to make wild claims about ETS without having to back them up with rigorous evidence in an objective, impartial setting such as a court of law. With the pending challenge to the EPA's report, that is about to change. For a preview of the truth likely to emerge, we have only to look at a recent Australian court case in which the Australian Department of Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare was pressing a complaint against a casino in an attempt to enforce a no-smoking law.
The question of "respiratory illnesses" quickly became a question of whether the effect of ETS should more properly be characterized as an "irritation" [the defense] or an "inflammation" [the prosecution]. After considering the evidence and witnesses from both sides, the judge likened it to "the experience of ordinary people who sneeze, or whose eyes water when peeling onions." The infamous "respiratory illnesses", in other words, were boiled down in the crucible of truth to simple runny noses.
In addition, the prosecution introduced as part of their evidence the January '93 EPA report on lung cancer and ETS. About this report the judge had these words: "I would have thought that these reports would be those which supported the prosecution case most strongly, but they appear not to. One of these reports is the American EPA report... Chapter 7.9 of the report covers passive smoking and respiratory symptoms and lung function in adults. Table 7.11 tabulates 6 studies and their results, which really show the contrary to what the prosecution witnesses say." The decision, handed down in Perth on September 17, 1993, concluded: "Whilst ETS is annoying and of discomfort to non smokers it has not been proved at the required standard, or at all, that it is a risk to the health of the employees at the Casino."


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Posted by Residents for Smoke-Free Living
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Pardon me, but smoking is far more harmful than a dog barking. For those who don't believe that smoking kills (can't imagine any of them are scientifically inclined), visit a cardiology unit sometime. Or tell it to my friend who is sadly dying from lung cancer most certainly caused by secondhand smoke.

Look, I am happy to let folks do what they want, but I draw the line when it becomes harmful to others.

I find it hard to believe that some people deny that smoking is harmful to one's health. The multitude of published scientific and health studies from reputable organizations are consistent in their conclusions. Secondhand smoke kills.

If anyone, surely the tobacco companies would have funded studies to prove the contrary - but they haven't. With good reason, the evidence is irrefutable.

So for our friends who are smokers out there, we are not out to get you and we wish you all the health and happiness in the world. We also ask you to please stop denying that you are harming yourself and those around you every time you light up. We are not asking you to be considerate, we are asking you not to harm or kill those around you. Is that really too much to ask?


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Posted by delores
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm

there is no will there be any help for victims of secondhand smoke I have copd and the flair ups have been increasing also trips to the e.r. I have begun to use the urgent care facility all because my home is being invaded inside and out by second-hand smoke . yes I was a smoker until 9 years ago when the ambulance was called to take me to the e.r. and I was admitted for a five day stay and a diagnosis of copd if I knew then what I know now cigaretes would not have been a part of my life I have worked hard to stabilize my health only to have by state legalize marijuana and since then I have had to live with second-hand smoke I even went on u-tube and learned to make portable clean air machines using box fans with a hepa filter and they work too


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Posted by Danny
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm

What laws are there about the second hand smoke from condo neighbors barbequing and the smoke drifting in to my yard and in to my condo?
What about the second hand smoke (and soot) in the air from wood burning fireplaces in a condo/townhouse?
These examples above cause second hand smoke too.
Seems to me, you ban smoking secondary to 2nd hand smoke, so should outdoor barbequing and utilization of wood burning fireplaces be bannded by the HOA.
What about the condo/townouse owners who drive SUVs and pollute the air? Can those be banned from the property also (to protect everyone's health)?


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Posted by Danny
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm

What laws are there about the second hand smoke from condo neighbors barbequing and the smoke drifting in to my yard and in to my condo?
What about the second hand smoke (and soot) in the air from wood burning fireplaces in a condo/townhouse?
These examples above cause second hand smoke too.
Seems to me, you ban smoking secondary to 2nd hand smoke, so should outdoor barbequing and utilization of wood burning fireplaces be bannded by the HOA.
What about the condo/townouse owners who drive SUVs and pollute the air? Can those be banned from the property also (to protect everyone's health)?


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