Public Comment

New: Tell Your Rent Board This Friday You Need to Breathe Clean Air

By Carol Denney
Wednesday October 17, 2012 - 01:02:00 PM

Tired of breathing your neighbor’s secondhand smoke? Come to the Ad Hoc Committee on Smokefree Housing on Friday, October 19, 1:00 pm (2001 Center Street, Law Library, 2nd Floor) and tell the Rent Board. 

All the relevant commissions in Berkeley’s commission system have watched their best efforts to protect Berkeley citizens from secondhand smoke in their own homes dashed against the stubborn wall of disinformation promulgated by the Berkeley’s own Rent Stabilization Board, which persists in getting its information straight from the tobacco industry. 

A new effort to get public health prioritized instead of false tobacco industry claims (a rash of evictions! an inability to comply on the part of the poor, the mentally challenged, etc.!) was the recommendation of Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Councilmember Max Anderson in January of 2012. 

Anderson and Worthington’s joint recommendation encourages joint meetings with the Community Health Commission in the hope that relevant science enters the discussion, which has been stalled since Mayor Tom Bates encouraged the Community Health Commission to take steps to protect people from secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing, a recommendation the Mayor made back in 2006. 

The Community Health Commission recommended 100% smokefree housing, which most landlords in the 17 cities and 3 counties in California with smoking regulations have adopted for health, safety, and insurance reasons. But the Rent Board recommended a percentage of smoking units in every building, ensuring that all building tenants live with constant exposure, and the policy effort went down the drain along with the health of thousands of Berkeley residents. 

It’s taken years to revisit the discussion, years in which tenants without the means or opportunity to move are forced to breath secondhand smoke in their homes, while they study, even while they sleep. Secondhand smoke trades throughout buildings with shared walls, ventilation systems, hallways, etc., and there is no safe dose. 

Tell the Rent Board it’s time to get real. “90% smokefree”, which was their slogan last time, means “100% smokefilled” for the 88% of nonsmoking tenants forced to breath secondhand smoke. Let’s stand up for science-based public policy and protect public health.