Supervisor Norman Yee said that San Francisco has fallen behind other cities by not establishing policies that “protect our most vulnerable from secondhand smoke.”
Shutterstock

Supervisor Norman Yee said that San Francisco has fallen behind other cities by not establishing policies that “protect our most vulnerable from secondhand smoke.” Shutterstock

SF may prohibit people from smoking in their apartments

Board of Supervisors to vote Dec. 1 on ban

San Francisco may soon prohibit people from smoking tobacco or cannabis in their apartments.

In one of Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee’s last pieces of legislation, smoking and vaping would be outlawed in apartment buildings of three or more units.

“We are discussing the right of our residents to breathe clean air,” Yee said Thursday, citing the impacts of secondhand smoke.

The board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee voted Thursday to send the legislation to the full board for a vote, but did so without a recommendation for approval. The full board is expected to vote on the proposal on Dec. 1.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman raised concerns about applying the ban to smoking cannabis.

One amendment made by Yee would exempt cannabis smoking for those who obtain a recommendation from their doctor to smoke medicinal cannabis for medical purposes.

But Mandelman said many people no longer get medical proof, such as medical cannabis cards, because cannabis is now legal for adult use. He suggested a blanket exemption for cannabis smoke.

“For folks who do not have a medical cannabis card, there are very few places outside their own home where you can consume cannabis,” Mandelman said. “It is not parallel to cigarettes in that way. Cigarettes, there are still places where smokers can go and smoke. That is not so much the case for cannabis smokers.”

Yee said a blanket exemption for cannabis smoke would not achieve his aim.

“My priority is to provide clean air for people to breathe in their own homes,” he said.

Mandelman said the proposal, which was introduced last week, was moving quickly so that Yee could approve it before he is termed out of office in January, but he remained concerned about the cannabis ban. However, he voted with his colleagues Supervisors Shamann Walton and Supervisor Catherine Stefani to move it to the full board.

Both Walton and Stefani said they supported the proposal. Supervisor Sandra Fewer has also co-sponsored it.

Stefani said she has heard concerns about secondhand smoke from her constituents, “especially a lot of the elderly residents,” in District 2, which includes the Marina.

“I am very supportive of this legislation,” she said.

Smoking is currently banned in some parts of apartment buildings, including common areas and stairways. Some tenants do have leases that prohibit smoking in their unit, but it’s not clear how many. About half of San Francisco residents live in multi-unit buildings.

An estimated 12 percent of adults in San Francisco smoke tobacco, health officials said.

Building owners and managers would need to post signage about the ban and notify their tenants. Violation of the ban could not be grounds for evicting a tenant.

The Department of Public Health would enforce the no smoking rule in apartments, leading with education and resources for smoking cessation. But repeat offenders could face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

San Francisco would join some 63 other cities and counties in California that in the past decade have adopted similar laws to make apartment buildings smoke-free. They include San Mateo, Daly City and Berkeley.

Groups including the American Heart Association’s Bay Area division and the San Francisco Tobacco-Free Coalition are backing the effort.

Yee said one reason he was advancing the proposal was because a mother had called his office for help because her baby was being exposed to secondhand smoke and feared the health impacts.

“I was alerted to and reminded that San Francisco has fallen behind many cities in enacting policies to protect our most vulnerable from secondhand smoke by a mother with an infant,” Yee said.

This story was updated to clarify the exemption for smoking medicinal cannabis.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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