In Santa Monica, No Smoking at Home

I’m all for trying to curb smoking, especially in public places. But a new ordinance approved by the Santa Monica city council, banning new tenants of apartments and condos from smoking inside their residences, seems a bit over the top.

The ban requires a second vote to become law but, if approved, it will take effect in 30 days. After that, new tenants of multi-family housing complexes will have to publicly disclose if they smoke. Current residents will have to decide whether to designate their residences smoking or nonsmoking. If they fail to do so, the new law will be applicable to their residences.

I understand that for nonsmokers living in apartment buildings the mere fact that someone smokes next door can be a huge nuisance. I’ve been in situations, especially in hotels, where I was annoyed by cigarette smell coming through the vents. But I still have a problem with this legislation, for various reasons:

First, having the law dictate what people can or cannot do in their own homes is too intrusive. After all, smoking is not illegal, and if it’s not done in public places, it shouldn’t be prohibited. Even nonsmokers have problems with that.

Second, this ban makes it even more difficult for prospective renters to find good places to live. They already have to deal with other restrictions, such as no children, no pets. Adding no smoking to that, further diminishes their options.

Finally, since neither the police nor landlords will be enforcing the law, it will be up to neighbors to file suits against transgressors. This is likely to create more –and possibly frivolous– litigation between neighbors.

But in Santa Monica, already considered a “nanny state” by some, this ordinance will probably pass and people will have to adjust to it. Years back the city banned smoking in outdoor common areas of apartments and condos. And the way it’s going, it won’t be too long before a total ban on smoking is in place.

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