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San Francisco tenants living in apartments with three or more units could soon be prohibited from smoking tobacco and cannabis inside their homes.

Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee said Tuesday at the board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting that his proposed legislation aims to protect residents from the effects of secondhand smoke. 

Yee said:

“We should not prioritize some of someone’s desire to smoke over to write to breathe smoke free air.”

Noting that many residents, especially families with children distance learning at home, are impacted more severely during the ongoing pandemic, Yee added:  

“We know that there are San Franciscans who can’t escape the smoke in their homes, during the day and aren’t able to breathe clean air.”

Currently, city law prohibits residents from smoking in enclosed and certain unenclosed common areas in multi-housing units of two more. Residents can smoke if they are at least 10 feet away from a door, window or common-use outdoor area.

Kaka_Ortega The full San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote in December 2020 on a proposal that would prohibit smoking tobacco and cannabis inside apartments where there are three or more attached units.

Yee amended the proposal to exempt residents who smoke cannabis if they have a marijuana medical card.

The proposal was moved out of committee and heads to a full board scheduled for Dec. 1, but the committee did so without recommendation. Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, the chair of the committee, expressed concern over just allowing residents with marijuana medical cards to smoke now that cannabis use is legal for all adults statewide. 

Mandelman said that since the state legalized recreational use, many people no longer obtain medical cards and he worries the legislation could impact cannabis users more so than tobacco users.

The supervisor said:

“The concern I have about the legislation is that for folks who do not have a medical cannabis card, there are very few places outside your own home where you can consume cannabis. It is not parallel to cigarettes in that way. There are still places where smokers can go and smoke. That’s not so much the case for cannabis smokers.”

Yee said a blanket waiver for cannabis would defeat the purpose of his legislation and that his priority is provide clean air for residents.

Both supervisors Shamann Walton and Catherine Stefani support the proposal, as does Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who co-sponsored the proposal.

The Department of Public Health would enforce the new law. During the first year of when the law takes effect, DPW would first initiate a multilingual public information campaign to raise awareness of the smoking prohibition and provide resources for residents to quit smoking. The department would have authority to issue fines of up to $1,000 for violations.

Yee said he was prompted to introduce the legislation after he received an email from mother with an infant, adding:

“She contacted my office asking for help because her infant was subjected to secondhand smoke from the neighbors and feared that the health impact this would have on her infant.”

A number of counties and cities in the state have adopted similar laws, including Daly City, South San Francisco and Berkeley, Yee said.

Based on survey data gathered by the state, public health officials estimate that in The City, 12 percent of adults and 6.5 percent of high school students smoke.

The American Heart Association and San Francisco Tobacco-Free Coalition support Yee’s proposal.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn covers transportation and City Hall in San Francisco for SF Bay. Email: jerold@sfbay.ca. Twitter: @Jerold_Chinn. Instagram: jeroldwashere.

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