Friday, February 6, 2009

Let's Ban Smoking in Multifamily Housing

[ Email to the White Plains Common Council and the media on February 3, 2009. ]
I am writing to ask the Common Council to ban smoking in multifamily housing in White Plains.

The hundreds of thousands who work in our City each day are protected by a ban on smoking in the workplace. But our residents, most of whom live in multifamily housing and don't smoke themselves, must take their chances with secondhand smoke and fires caused by smoking.

Smoking Diseases
Smoking (tobacco-related disease) is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., killing over 440,000, including 38,000 non-smokers felled by lung cancer or heart disease attributable to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand Smoke
The Surgeon General says, and the courts have recognized, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • In fact, just 5 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke constricts your aorta as much as if you'd actually smoked a cigarette, reducing arterial function, and making your heart work harder. The effects are far worse for longer exposure.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency classifies secondhand smoke as a Class A carcinogen, the most dangerous class.
  • There are no ventilation systems capable of removing secondhand smoke from indoor air. Mechanical, chemical, and electronic filters and cleaners simply don't work.

Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous to the unborn, the young, and the elderly, who are least able to recognize and escape a dangerous environment.

Smoking Fires
Smoking is also a leading cause of residential fires in the United States, and the leading cause of preventable fire fatalities, injuries, and damages, estimated at more than $400 million annually.

Choices and Rights
There is no Constitutional right to smoke. But everyone has the right to live in a safe, habitable environment.

If you live in a single-family home, how you deal with indoor smoking is up to you. But for most White Plains residents, it's up to the landlord.

A Better Way
But there is an alternative. White Plains, like the city of Belmont in California, could ban smoking in multifamily housing.

I urge you to review the Belmont ordinance regulating secondhand smoke (attached) and adopt a similar ordinance to protect the majority of White Plains citizens.