Yee moves to ban smoking in apartment buildings

Prohibition would inculde cannabis smoke and vaping

San Francisco banned smoking in the common areas of multi-unit buildings a decade ago. Now one supervisor wants to extend the ban to make all apartment buildings smoke-free.

A ban on smoking in apartment buildings with three or more units was introduced Tuesday by Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, who decried the negative health impacts of secondhand smoke exposure.

He said the proposal comes as there has been an increase in secondhand smoke exposure; similar restrictions have been in place for years in other cities and counties in California.

Yee said the restrictions are more important now than ever since the pandemic has forced many to remain in their homes for long periods of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Secondhand smoke exposure has skyrocketed in recent years,” Yee said. “We have seen huge increases in secondhand vape, marijuana smoke exposure.”

The proposal makes clear that a tenant would not be evicted for violating the ban. The Department of Public Health would be in charge of enforcement, which would lead with education as well as the offer of ways to quit. However, repeated violations could result in fines of up to $1,000, but not before a notice of violation is issued with a chance to comply.

“Right now, San Francisco does so little to help residents being exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes,” Yee said. “Our health code currently prohibits smoking in common areas in multi-unit housing. It does not restrict residents from smoking in their own individual units. The problem is that smoke easily moves between units and buildings and there is no way to contain it.”

About half of San Francisco residents live in multi-unit buildings. Some tenants do have leases that prohibit smoking, but it’s not clear how many of the units are captured by such provisions.

Yee is termed out of office in January, which makes this one of his last legislative efforts and part of his legacy.

The proposal drew the support of the American Heart Association.

“This is an important strategy to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke which can have immediate detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system,” Laura Steinfeldt, Bay Area executive director of the American Heart Association, said in a statement. “Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with a 25%–30% increased risk for coronary heart disease in adult nonsmokers.”

The legislation will have its first hearing Nov. 12 before the board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee.

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