The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to change the definition of ‘smoking’ and ‘tobacco product’ to include electronic smoking devices. The Board also voted 4-1 today to approve an ordinance prohibiting smoking of all types in and around unincorporated multi-unit residences, which include owner-occupied condominiums and townhouses.Health officials contend cigarette smoke can creep through floors, walls and air systems, exposing other residents to its dangers.
In accordance with a memo by county supervisors Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier, who are pushing the anti-smoking regulations, some unspecified scientific studies show that electronic smoking devices give off nicotine in released vapor, as well as other harmful elements such as lead.
‘These ordinances are ultimately about public health,’ said Carole Groom. ‘Many reputable studies have shown that second-hand smoke has serious short-term and long-term health impacts, particularly for children and seniors, and our job is to protect our most vulnerable residents.’
The smoke-free multi-unit housing regulation requires landlords to post ‘no smoking’ signs, include the restriction in the lease and designate smoking areas at least 30 feet from any door, window or vent.Medical marijuana would be exempted. However, the ban would not affect hotels, motels, residential care and assisted living facilities.
As evidence of the measure’s efficacy, Groom and Tissier cited a 2013 survey by the group California Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, which showed the number of tobacco stores selling electronic cigarettes had quadrupled between 2011 and 2013.
The new ordinance would take effect 30 days after its approval in common areas and newly rented or sold units. However, it wouldn't impact current residents until 14 months later.
Smokers who break the law could be fined up to $100 for the first violation, up to $200 for the second breach and up to $500 for each additional offense within a year. After three violations, the next one would be charged as a misdemeanor. Each day a person breaks the law would be considered a separate violation.
Primarily affected would be North Fair Oaks and unincorporated areas of Redwood City, where 105 of the 135 multi-unit facilities in the unincorporated county are located. The North Fair Oaks Community Council, a county advisory group, endorsed the ordinance at its May 22 meeting.
Data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development indicates that there were 47,066 smoking-related hospitalizations in San Mateo County between 2006 and 2010. ’Treatment costs for these hospitalizations were $567 million, and total costs spent by the San Mateo County Medical Center were over $20 million,’ Groom said.
County health officials and law supporters conducted public-outreach efforts over the past three years to receive resident feedback on the expanded smoking restrictions. More than three-quarters of residents surveyed throughout the county were in support of smoke-free multiuse housing policies, proponents said.