Council opposes smoking evictions

Smoking is hazardous to our health. It is hazardous to our children's health, our friends' health and our sometimes-irritating neighbors' health.

Research determined that secondhand smoke contains 4,000 chemicals, 250 of which are known to be harmful, and at least 50 of which are known to cause cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthy Homes Program.

But smoking is a personal decision, and no laws should determine what one can and cannot do in the privacy of their own home. Any ban or law enacted to deter people from smoking in their own apartment is to make any cigarette smoker a criminal.

The Santa Monica City Council recently struck down a proposed bill to criminalize smoking indoors, proposed by assemblyman Marc Levine.

Under current state law, a landlord cannot evict a tenant of multiunit housing for smoking. However, in Levine's bill, landlords would have the power to evict a tenant for smoking in apartments and condos that have two or more units and share walls, floors, ceilings or ventilation systems.

The main objective of Levine's bill, Assembly Bill 746, is to require that people go outside and away from buildings to smoke. According to the bill, the designated smoking area has to be 20 feet away from the unit or an enclosed area, and 100 feet from an unenclosed area in some apartment buildings.

Only one other councilman, Bob Holbrook, thought that the bill should be passed, explaining there is very little difference between the risk of dying from smoking or dying from secondhand smoke.

Although the council rightfully refused to go as far as criminalizing the act, new smoking laws enacted in November designate all newly occupied apartments and condos in Santa Monica as nonsmoking.

So, what exactly is the difference?

Currently, if a resident moves from one apartment to another, the apartment left is automatically designated a nonsmoking apartment if the landlord so chooses to have a lease reflect eviction as a violation for smoking.

Over the past few months, apartment owners have been surveying tenants in previously occupied apartments to determine which apartments would be designated for smoking and which would not.

If a tenant signed a survey to designate their apartment as "smoking" they could continue to smoke. If a tenant chooses not to sign, their unit remains "undesignated," and that means that smoking is still allowed in that unit.

However, within these apartments, all new tenants are not allowed to smoke within the vicinity. Tenants signing onto new leases agree to those terms, more so, agreeing to eviction if those terms are broken.

George Macon, who lives in Santa Monica, said that he doesn't appreciate being told where to smoke. Macon has to either smoke in his garage or on the street outside.

"I understand that people don't smoke, but just don't impeded on my right to smoke," Macon said. "Smoking is just as harmful as standing outside with the fumes from cars and trucks."

Adults should make their own decisions about whether to smoke in their apartments, and about the proximity of their children and nonsmokers while smoking.

Although the City Council approved new smoking laws in 2012, they are not willing to go as far as evicting someone who has previously been allowed to smoke in their apartment, according to the opposition.

Smoking is an issue that should be addressed, but the City Council clearly prioritized keeping people in their homes over slightly cleaner air, which should always be the priority no matter the situation.