SF Board of Supervisors send smokefree multiunit housing ordinance back to committee

After approving the ordinance 10-1 a week before, last Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 to send the bill back to committee for further consideration.

This is a big win for Big Tobacco because Norman Yee, the current Board President and primary author of the ordinance, will be termed out, as well be Sandra Fewer, another member who supported the ordinance.

Opponents, led by Supervisor Peskin, argued that there was a need for a “better” solution than a ban. The reality is, however, that the only way to protect nonsmokers elsewhere in the building is to simply prohibit smoking.

The most frustrating argument was that it was necessary to keep smoking to protect poor people when, in fact, the group most adversely affected by secondhand smoke in multiunit housing are lower income people who are more likely to live in multiunit housing. This recent study concluded:

Although the prevalence of SHSe among nonsmokers in the US declined substantially (87.5% to 25.3%) from 1988 to 2012,5 progress has stagnated since then, with persisting racial and economic disparities. Populations with a lower socioeconomic status have higher smoking rates, lower knowledge about health risks of tobacco, higher risk of workplace exposure, and higher likelihood of living in low-income multi-unit housing and have their communities targeted more by tobacco companies, which would possibly explain the high SHSe observed in our study. Furthermore, in households with smokers, non-Hispanic Black individuals are less likely to have a complete smoking ban in homes, while parents of any race or ethnicity with a child on Medicaid or uninsured (a proxy for lower income) are less likely to have a complete smoking ban in family vehicles. We conclude that more needs to be done to implement enhanced and equitable comprehensive smoke-free laws throughout the US (currently implemented in only 27 states). The serum cotinine levels in nonsmokers provide a measure of overall SHSe, regardless of the sources or locations of exposure; therefore, these laws should be expanded to include other forms of vaping and should include private properties (eg, cars) for meaningful reduction in SHSe among vulnerable populations (eg, young children).

With the changeover in the Board following the November election, it will be back to square one.

Given that 63 other California communities now require smokefree multiunit housing, San Francisco has lost its leading role in tobacco control.

Published by Stanton Glantz

Stanton Glantz is a retired Professor of Medicine who served on the University of California San Francisco faculty for 45 years. He conducts research on tobacco and cannabis control and cardiovascular disease/

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