Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Letter to the Editor in the ACORN Exposes Folly of Calabasas Apartment Smoking Ban

My letter to the editor regarding the folly of the Calabasas apartment smoking ban appears in today's edition of The Acorn.

I write: "The Calabasas City Council last week gave final approval to an ordinance that expands its existing widespread outdoor smoking ban to regulate smoking in all rental units in the city. This ordinance is an example of a city government that has run amok. It is an example of extremely poor public health policy that not only fails to achieve a significant public health purpose but actually makes the problem much worse that it would otherwise have to be. It intrudes upon landlords' autonomy in the operation of their businesses without any valid public health justification. In Calabasas apartments, smoking is essentially randomly distributed and thus it minimizes the chances that levels of smoke in any particular apartment will be extremely high. However, if smoking units are all grouped in the same area, levels of tobacco smoke in those areas are going to be extremely high. This ordinance maximizes, rather than reduces, the possibility that secondhand smoke is going to become a problem for some apartment residents. ..."

"The nonsmokers are actually better off without this ordinance, because at least there is some possible recourse if smoking in apartments is not regulated. But once the regulations specifically permit landlords to designate 20 percent of their units as smoking units, there is little recourse for nonsmokers who will now almost assuredly be affected by smoke, even if they weren't affected before the ordinance. This ordinance essentially institutionalizes the problem of tobacco smoke exposure among nonsmoking apartment residents."

The Rest of the Story

If you are going to intrude into the autonomy of landlords in terms of how they run their rental operations, then you at least better be doing so in a way that protects the public's health. The Calabasas ordinance accomplishes just the opposite: it virtually guarantees that secondhand smoke will be a problem in Calabasas rental properties, and worse, it takes away any existing recourse that affected nonsmokers have to attempt to mitigate or solve the problem.

It will be interesting to see whether Calabasas policy makers revisit the ordinance now that its completely lack of sense and lack of public health justification have been exposed.

Even more interesting will be to see whether anti-smoking groups are willing to speak out in opposition to this ordinance, which clearly does a tremendous disservice to the cause of protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure in their homes.

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