Earlier this week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to ban all tobacco smoking and vaping from inside apartments in the city.
The ordinance, written by outgoing Supervisor Norman Yee, cites that secondhand smoke could travel between apartment units, potentially harming residents in other units. The ordinance will only cover apartment buildings with 3 or more units and will be enforced by the San Francisco Department of Health. Balconies and patios attached to apartments will be covered under the ban, with repeat offenders facing fines to as much as $1,000 a day.
“After starting this in January, I’m happy to report that the Board of Supervisors passed my Smoke-free Multi-Unit Housing Legislation tonight, with a cannabis exemption,” tweeted Supervisor Yee on Tuesday. “Secondhand smoke causes harm & everyone should have clean air to breathe where they live. Thanks to my colleagues for their support!”
After starting this in January, I'm happy to report @sfbos passed my Smoke-free Multi-Unit Housing Legislation tonight, with a cannabis exemption. Secondhand smoke causes harm & everyone should have clean air to breathe where they live. Thanks to my colleagues for their support!
— Norman Yee (@NormanYeeSF) December 2, 2020
However, the ordinance had been altered significantly since the last vote on it by the Board in mid-November. Several Supervisors, led by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, pressed for a cannabis exemption. As it is illegal under California law to smoke marijuana in public areas, they argued that banning marijuana smoking would amount to a total marijuana smoking ban in San Francisco for many residents.
“Unlike tobacco smokers who could still leave their apartments to step out to the curb or smoke in other permitted outdoor smoking areas, cannabis users would have no such legal alternatives,” explained Supervisor Mandelman before the vote on Tuesday.
As the ordinance would not have had enough votes to pass with marijuana smoking being banned, an exemption had been made before the vote, allowing it to pass.
Praise, condemnation of the ordinance
While many celebrated the passage of the ordinance, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, others noted that it infringes on the rights of apartment renters and discriminates against lower-income residents.
“Low-income residents have been continuously pushed out of the city since the 60’s,” Jennifer Conaway, a housing advocate and organizer for low-income housing projects, told the Globe. “We’ve only seen in accelerate during the recent tech boom and during COVID. Even the famous Chinatown is at risk of going away forever.
“This ordinance just presses that again. A lot of apartments in San Francisco are, I admit, filled with wealthier people, but the only cheap options for low-income residents are apartment buildings in blocks of 3 or more units. And that’s just who it’s hurting. They have no place else to really go in the city, and any time they want to smoke now they have to go outside, right at a time when COVID-19 is hitting at it’s hardest. Yee is possibly sending people to their death by COVID outside and he just doesn’t care.
“San Francisco used to be known as a compassionate city. But it’s pretty obvious from ordinances like this that it really isn’t.”
With the Board’s passage on Tuesday, San Francisco is in line to be the 63rd such city or county in California, as well as the largest city in the country, to have passed such an apartment smoking ban.
Final passage of the ordinance is dependent on a second Board vote next week and Mayor London Breed’s signature, both of which are highly likely. Should it be signed, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days afterwards, signaling that the ban would likely be in place as early as mid-January next year.