Letter: June 17 – June 24

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The inability to have a smoke free home

In an editorial from June 10, The Daily Californian wrote, “In comparison, residents of apartment buildings do not have a choice about whether or not their neighbors smoke, but they can make a choice to keep their living situations smoke-free.”

In housing with shared walls, if your neighbors smoke, you do, too. You cannot keep your “living situation smoke-free” as your editorial claims, because a percentage of the air in apartment buildings seeps through walls, doors, ventilation systems, lighting fixtures and windows. My neighbors typically air out their smoke-filled apartment by sending their smoke into our apartment building’s common areas, and we neighbors, who can’t afford to move, know we’re getting exposed even while we sleep. We have a very high incidence of cancer and heart disease-related deaths in our very small building because of a very few smokers who smoke constantly and indoors.

Your editorial does not seem to recognize that this proposal is so weak that it will not address these smokers at all, who will only be offered but not obligated to sign new leases with smoke-free provisions. It saddens me that the Senior Editorial Board did not read the ordinance, which wholeheartedly salutes a disease-filled status quo instead of taking a stand for public health.

It’s true that this ordinance will have the most impact on low-income renters and people of color. But most of those low-income renters and people of color do not smoke; have an equal interest in protecting themselves and their families from the effects of secondhand smoke; and deserve safe, healthy air as a simple matter of essential habitability. To suggest otherwise is a familiar racism most often cited by the tobacco industry.

Smoking sections, once typical of early efforts to compromise with the very few smokers who still smoke inside their apartment units in Alameda County, only succeed in guaranteeing 100 percent unhealthy air for all residents. And reducing the fines for smoking reduces any incentive to respect the health of those who are forced to smoke involuntarily.

Please read the ordinance again; the weakness you seem to hope for is already there in black and white.

— Carol Denney,
Berkeley resident