2012-05-11 / Top Stories

Another Anti-Smoking Bill Introduced

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg introduced a bill that would require owners of residential buildings with three or more units in New York City to inform prospective tenants and purchasers whether smoking is allowed inside apartments as well as on balconies, courtyards and rooftops. Building owners would also be encouraged to use this as an opportunity to alert current residents of their smoking policies.

“Smoking kills and people have the right to know if they are going to be exposed to secondhand smoke,” said Bloomberg. “We pursued this proposal in response to complaints from New Yorkers. It won’t ban smoking in residential buildings, only ensure that New Yorkers can choose a smoke-free place to live.”

“Secondhand smoke can seep into apartments from neighboring units, at levels that vary with each building’s construction and ventilation system,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “We know that secondhand smoke can exacerbate asthma and increase the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, and that some people with chronic health conditions are particularly susceptible. With this law, New Yorkers can better understand their risk of exposure by being informed of their building’s smoking policies.”

The new law, which is similar to other disclosure policies such as a history of bed bugs or lead paint, would require landlords to provide a disclosure form to tenants and apartment purchasers stating the building’s smoking policy before a lease or sale is finalized. It is similar to laws that have been passed in Maine, Oregon, and several local jurisdictions. The law would not restrict smoking in private residences but enable all residents, including smokers and non-smokers, to know a building’s smoking policy before deciding where to live.

More than 85 percent of adult New Yorkers do not smoke today, and less than 10 percent smoke inside their homes. Even though the percentage of at-home smokers is small, in some buildings cigarette smoke can move quickly between apartments via cracks in the wall, ceilings and floors, through electrical outlets, and under doors. Air quality monitoring studies have detected elevated levels of harmful particulates in nonsmokers’ apartments when occupants are smoking in another unit. A building’s ventilation system and whether windows and doors are open impacts the amount of exposure people in neighboring apartments have to secondhand smoke.

This law would have the greatest impact on children and the elderly because they are more vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke and also spend more time at home. Studies have demonstrated that of children with parents who don’t smoke in the home, those living in apartments have, on average, 45 percent higher cotinine levels than those living in detached homes. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke because they live with smokers have increased risk for asthma attacks, reduced cardiovascular function, respiratory infections, ear infections, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Those interested in quitting smoking can call 311.

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