Fairfax residents irritated by second-hand smoke in their own apartments – and, if Wednesday night’s town council meeting was any indication, there are plenty of them – may not have to worry anymore.
The Fairfax Town Council approved an ordinance yesterday that would limit smoking in multi-unit apartment buildings and in certain outdoor areas – near entrance ways to business and at bus stops, for example.
“The studies have shown that secondhand smoke and what they call thirdhand smoke can have profound health effects to folks who are exposed to it because they happen to live in a multi-unit facility,” said Mayor Larry Bragman, who brought the ordinance forward after a number of public meetings over the last year to gather input from the community.
Thirdhand smoke is the term for the tobacco residue that stays on walls, furniture and other surfaces even after a smoker leaves an area.
The ordinance initially proposed to exempt bars from requirements that would ban smoking near business entrances, but after a number of community members spoke about their concerns having to walk near areas with extensive smoking, the council decided not to exempt bars.
“Make this law tougher,” urged resident Yvette Wakefield.
The outdoor patio at got a call out by more than one resident as an area with excessive smoking. The council discussed the possibility of urging the business to install a filtration system that would limit the amount of smoke that affected residents walking nearby.
Nearly a half dozen residents also spoke about living in multi-unit apartment complexes, near neighbors who smoke right outside their windows. Sam Rosenfield said his neighbor’s wife won’t let him smoke indoors, so the neighbor smokes out on the patio and it comes straight through Rosenfield’s window. On hot days, like this week, he has to keep the windows closed and has no air-conditioning.
The ordinance that was finally approved would require that all complexes with four units or more would be required to have 75 percent of their units designated as smoke-free and should segregate those units as much as possible. The ordinance also bans smoking in any outdoors places (unless otherwise noted) where food or drink is sold, near any entrances or exits of enclosed spaces where smoking is already prohibited, in public parks and at public events.
The council also pointed out that 75 percent was the minimum required to be smoke-free in multi-unit housing, but owners and property managers could make more units in their properties smoke-free.
“There’s no legal right to smoke,” said Pam Granger from the American Lung Association in response to questions about whether owners could ban smoking in outdoor areas in a complex.
The property manager from Sherwood Oaks Apartments said she has been working on advertising the complex as smoke-free, which has helped the quality of life in the complex, and that having the backing of the town would help her.
“This is a measured approach,” said Council Member Lew Tremaine, who had opposed the – arguing that it was too strident and trampled on smoker’s rights.
Fairfax now joins Larkspur and Novato as the other towns in Marin with smoking ordinances in multi-unit housing. The county is currently considering a similar ordinance.