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No Smoking in Balconies and Patios

By Jonathan Friedman
Staff Writer

November 11, 2009 -- A group of residents that successfully lobbied the City Council to ban smoking in common areas of apartments and condominiums wants the prohibition expanded to balconies and patios.

Santa Monicans for Non-Smoking Renters Rights also wants the creation of non-smoking sections for multi-family residential buildings, including units. And the group says landlords and condo owners should be forced to disclose smoking and non-smoking units to potential tenants and buyers.

“When someone smokes on a balcony or patio, the smoke is pulled into neighboring units because of the difference in air pressure,” said group member Myra Morris, who called this “an intrusion.”

A press release issued by the group claims that once secondhand smoke has drifted into a unit, it attaches to walls, floors, furniture and rugs and outgases back into the room, even if no one is smoking. The group looks to an article from January of this year in the journal Pediatrics as proof of the existence of what is called “third-hand smoke.”

“If smoke is coming into your unit on a regular basis, you are at risk for illness,” group member Barbara Bronie said “Cities have a responsibility to protect the public’s health.”

The City Council in January approved an ordinance to ban smoking in all multi-unit residential buildings. In creating the law, City officials had to weight the rights of non-smokers’ versus the risk of eviction for rent-control tenants by landlords who want to raise rents to market rates when a unit is vacated.

“It’s our job to weigh the ups and downs” of the ordinance, said council member Kevin McKeown during the January meeting. “It’s clear to me that I have to side with the health impacts.”

According to the law, victims of second hand smoke can file a civil action in court to get an injunction or collect as much as much as $100 in damages. But the law requires a tenant try to reach a solution with the smoker before filing a civil action, including providing written notice of the law and a written request to stop smoking in the property's common areas.

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