Monday, Oct 20, 2014
  • Smoking inside apartments and condominiums in the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County would become a thing of the past under a proposed ban coming before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Twin proposals by supervisors Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier will first amend the definitions of “smoking” and “tobacco product” to include electronic devices and then add a section to county code prohibiting smoking of all types in and around multi-unit residences. The proposal would only affect housing in the county’s unincorporated areas which includes 1,069 apartments of which 835 are in the unincorporated vicinity of Redwood City. The ordinance would prohibit smoking within 30 feet of the complexes, including decks, patios and other common areas. The ban would not affect motels, hotels, detached single-family homes or in-law units. Medical marijuana would also be exempt. The ordinance will also require the posting of “no smoking” signs in prohibited areas and allow landlords to establish designated smoking areas at least 30 feet from any door, window or vent. The ordinance, if passed, is effective 30 days after the final approval but the ban in existing facilities won’t begin until 14 months later. Groom said the only opposition she’s heard is from the San Mateo County Association of Realtors which dislikes that condominium owners would also be regulated. “I responded again by saying that this is really a health issue and I don’t think it would be equitable to say there’s a difference between renters and owners. Everyone is in danger with their health from secondhand smoke,’ Groom said. Health costs in San Mateo County are another reason propelling the proposed ordinance. Between 2006 and 2010, there were 47,066 smoking-related hospitalization in San Mateo County, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The cost was $566,797,878 with more than $20.7 million of it spent at the San Mateo Medical Center, Groom noted in her board report. At the same board meeting, supervisors will also consider changing the smoking definitions in the existing code to include electronic devices. In their recommendation to the board, Groom and Tissier cited a recent scientific study that confirmed electronic smoking devices emit nicotine in the released vapor and a World Medical Association determination that “neither their value as therapeutic aids for smoking cessation nor their safety as cigarette replacements is established.” With the county having already established smoking controls like banning it within 30 feet of county-owned or county-leased buildings, the supervisors said allowing the devices is a step back. Using them in smoke-free locations “threatens to reverse the progress” and “may increase the social acceptability and appeal of smoking,” they wrote in the board report. If the board passes the changes, the county won’t be alone. North Dakota, New Jersey and Utah prohibit e-cigarettes in 100 percent of smoke-free areas and nine others, not including California, ban them in specific areas. Sixteen California jurisdictions have prohibitions on e-cigarettes including Santa Clara, Marin and Contra Costa counties in the Bay Area. By Michelle Durand Daily Journal