Public Comment

New: 90% Smokefree is a Contradiction in Terms

By Carol Denney
Tuesday January 31, 2012 - 09:48:00 PM

90% Smokefree is a Contradiction in Terms, by Carol Denney 

Jaehak Yu's article in the Daily Californian covering a "smoking analysis" on the City Council agenda is more revealing that one might think. 

Two years ago an effort to protect people in multi-unit housing* from secondhand smoke was watered down to pointlessness in the name of compromise. 

Representatives of the Rent Stabilization Board insisted in the Subcommittee on Multi-Unit Housing and Tobacco that tobacco industry mythology well-known to be fallacious to health professionals and researchers be the basis for policy, reducing the proposed policy to the comic level of proposing smoking sections. 

Embarrassed health professionals abandoned the effort rather than make Berkeley the laughingstock of the public health community. When the smokefree housing effort was initiated recently, the Rent Stabilization Board was back in the mix. 

The irony is that Senator Padilla's California Senate Bill 332, which is now law, was designed to be educational for people like landlords and those on the Rent Stabilization Board who clearly don't realize that "80% smokefree" or "90% smokefree" slogans are contradictions in terms. Your air is either smokefree or it isn't; there is no safe dose of secondhand smoke. 

Berkeley residents need to watch closely as this "analysis" takes shape. The idea that Padilla's bill need Berkeley-specific refinements is cover for the fallacy that a waterfall of evictions follows smokefree housing regulations, a myth for which there is no basis in fact. 

If history is at all instructive, the current smokefree multi-unit housing effort will hit the same rocks it did in 2010 unless those without public health backgrounds realize that compromise, so useful in most political arenas, is not something one can do with an air contaminant so toxic that it does measurable damage within twenty minutes. 

Consider for a moment, whether you would take out a boat that was 80% or 90% leak-free. It may seem at first glance that you are safer in the latter, but in fact, either way, you're at the bottom of the bay. 

*(condos, apartments; places with shared walls and thus shared air)