By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Anti-smoking advocates emboldened by the passage of Sebastopol’s smoking ban for multi-unit dwellings are eying a similar ban in Sonoma County’s largest city.
Santa Rosa, which already restricts smoking in outdoor patios and public places, may soon be asked to take the ban indoors by restricting residents of apartment buildings and other multi-unit complexes from smoking inside their residences.
Clean-air advocates met with Councilwoman Susan Gorin, who was then the mayor, several weeks ago about bringing such an ordinance to the city, said Pamela Granger of the American Lung Association. They are in a preliminary stage of the process, meeting with the city’s largest apartment owners to gain support.
Once property owners are on board, Granger said, she and other groups plan to petition the Santa Rosa City Council for a ban that protects apartment dwellers from second-hand smoke.
Studies have shown that even when smoke remains inside a unit, second-hand smoke can be a health problem for neighbors, Granger said.
“There is no such thing as a place you can go where the second-hand smoke doesn’t have an impact,” Granger said.
Anti-smoking advocates will be pressing for strict bans covering 100 percent of units and covering tobacco and marijuana, unlike the partial bans in Rohnert Park and Sebastopol.
Rohnert Park requires 50 percent of existing units to be smoke-free by June 2011, and 75 percent for new construction.
Sebastopol’s City Council earlier this year passed a ban that covered 100 percent of units, but contained a controversial exemption for users of medicinal marijuana.
Granger said Santa Rosa should not allow similar loopholes because the dangers of second-hand smoke from both cigarettes and marijuana warrant a complete ban, she said.
The response from apartment owners has been good, she said. Studies show that nonsmoking units make good business sense because they are easier to re-rent and result in fewer complaints from neighbors, she said.
Granger declined to name the property owners she has met with, but residents of the Rosenberg Building in downtown Santa Rosa have reported that they’ve recently learned the entire building is going nonsmoking as of Jan. 1.
The American Lung Association has received numerous calls from residents in Santa Rosa and other cities inquiring about how to get similar bans imposed in their cities, Granger said.
Many are from people with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma, she said.
For them, living in a building that allows smoking can present severe health risks, she said.
“They feel they are condemned to death slowly,” she said.
To the argument that such a ban would be an invasion of smokers’ privacy or limit their housing choices, Granger said no one is stopping them from smoking in their cars or other areas. She also noted many nonsmoking buildings have designated outdoor smoking areas.
They also have another option.
“They could quit,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.