Lots of small cities in California have taken two big steps to protect youth from smoking addiction and secondhand smoke —banning flavored tobacco products and smoking inside all apartment homes.
Now San Jose will become the state’s largest city to take both steps.
The San Jose City Council is expected to formally approve the bans during a vote on Oct. 5, according to The Mercury News.
“The tobacco industry has a stronghold on our kiddos — enticing them with flavors and leading them to a life of addiction,” Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, a champion of the proposed ban, said Monday. “Banana split, Kool-aid, Hawaiian punch, gummy bears — all of these e-cigarette flavors may taste like candy but it’s poison to our children.”
San Jose’s New Ban on Smoking Inside Apartment Units
Up to now, San Jose has only prohibited smoking in publicly accessible and common areas of multifamily housing.
The new ban, according to The Mercury News, would:
- Outlaw any smoking— cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, vapes and cannabis products — inside the majority of multifamily housing complexes within the city.
- Cover any housing with three or more units (duplexes, condominiums and hotels and motels would be exempt).
“A survey of 1,442 San Jose residents conducted last October found that about 69% of those interviewed supported a ban on smoking inside apartments and townhouses, with most of them saying that they had been exposed to secondhand smoke drifting into their units within the last 30 days, according to the city’s code enforcement department,” according to The Mercury News.
In apartments that allow smoking inside units, secondhand smoke can travel through doorways, halls, windows, ventilation systems, electrical outlets, and gaps around fixtures and pipes.
Secondhand smoke is linked to cancer and heart disease.
“Based on several studies, an estimated 44 percent to 53 percent of multi-unit housing residents that do not allow smoking in their home, have experienced secondhand smoke infiltration in their home from elsewhere in or around the building,” according to the American Lung Association.
This is why San Jose is joining over 60 other cities in California in adopting smoke-free policies for multifamily housing.
For example, in Concord, Calif., City Council member Dominic Aliano listened to local Latinos and pushed for a smoke-free multifamily housing ordinance, which prohibits smoking inside units of all apartments.
“This legislation and ones like it are really important for people, especially those in the communities that I represent, who are mostly renters in multi-family housing complexes,” Aliano said. “Sometimes landlords take advantage of those families. It’s about making sure that you put policies in place that make sure they are in a healthy environment [regardless] of who they are or how much money they make.”
San Jose’s New Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products
When it comes to flavored products, San Jose’s new ordinance would, according to The Mercury News:
- Ban more than 650 tobacco retailers from selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol.
- Prohibit new tobacco retailers from opening a store within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer and within 1,000 feet of a school, park, community center or library.
“Tobacco retailers will be given six months to deplete the newly prohibited products before facing any fines or other enforcement actions,” according to the report.
This is big for San Jose’s Latino population (31.6%), as the children in that demographic will be less likely to start smoking.
Public health and civil rights groups have long argued people of color have been disproportionately harmed by flavored, menthol cigarettes. The tobacco has industry targeted its ads at Black and Latino communities for decades.
Latino adults smoke cigarettes at a lower rate (12.1%) than their white peers (19.4%).
However, once they’ve started, Latinos are more likely to keep smoking and only half as likely as whites to successfully quit smoking. Hence, Latinos find it harder to quit smoking.
Moreover, e-cigarettes and other flavored are the most commonly used tobacco products among Latino youths.
According to the latest CDC report, most youth e-cigarette users report using flavored varieties. Among high school students who currently use any flavored e-cigarettes, the most commonly used flavors are fruit (73%), mint (56%), menthol (37%), and candy, desserts, or other sweets (36.4%).
San Jose city leaders want to protect the children who suffer at the hands of predatory marketing, according to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo
“We know better,” Liccardo said. “And we just need to make sure that our young people are protected so that they have the ability as adults to make good health choices that they will not be regretting decades from now.”
San Jose’s new ordinance fits one of the three approaches suggested by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to regulate e-cigarettes:
- Completely banning e-cigarettes
- Regulating e-cigarettes as medicinal or therapeutic products
- Regulating e-cigarettes using tobacco control measures
For example, several states and cities are banning the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products. This includes Chicago, Oregon, California, New York, and others.
San Jose’s city ban was needed because “the tobacco industry promptly responded [to California’s state ban] with a referendum campaign, which put the ban on hold until voters decide whether to enact it in 2022. If approved, the statewide ban would then supersede similar city ordinances, though cities could implement stricter laws,” according to The Mercury News.
“Government policy makers and regulatory agencies around the world must take e-cigarettes seriously due to their potential impacts on youth and their ability to reverse or hinder national health goals,” according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
What Can You Do to Help Your City Address Smoking in Apartments?
Download the Salud America! “Help Your City Adopt Smoke-Free Multifamily Housing!” Action Pack.
The action pack will help you engage local leaders in exploring a smoke-free multifamily housing policy for common areas and individual units.
“Experts say a smoke-free multifamily housing policy can protect the health of tenants and staff of apartments from secondhand smoke, as well as save property owners money in unit maintenance, fire prevention, insurance, and reduced legal liability,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, action pack creator and director of the Salud America! Latino health equity program at UT Health San Antonio.
What Can You Do to Protect Others from Secondhand Smoke?
Promote clean indoor air with the new “Mil Gracias (A Thousand Thanks) for Not Smoking Indoors!” campaign from UT Health San Antonio.
The campaign invites people to share gratitude for smokers and vapers who respect others’ air during the COVID-19 respiratory pandemic:
- Email a “thank you” to smokers who protect others by not smoking indoors.
- Sign a letter acknowledging the health dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.
- Share the need to reduce secondhand smoke in multifamily dwellings.
The Mil Gracias campaign features English and Spanish flyers with key messages to help people reduce their risk for smoking-related diseases and COVID-19.
If you are interested in quitting cigarettes or vaping, join Quitxt is a bilingual service from UT Health San Antonio, and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
Quitxt sends messages via phone texts or Facebook Messenger chat to help South Texas adults quit smoking.
Join Quitxt in one of two ways:
- Text version: For English, text “iquit” to 844-332-2058. For Spanish, text “lodejo” to 844-332-2058.
- Facebook Messenger version: Go here and just hit “send message.”
“Quitting smoking could immediately improve your chances of staying healthy. Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, the heart returns to normal resting rate, blood circulation improves and blood pressure begins to drop,” The Daily Sabah reports. “Within 72 hours, healthy cells begin to replace damaged ones in the lungs, and the lungs regain full capacity.”
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