Half of Los Angeles apartment dwellers report having been exposed to unwanted secondhand smoke in their homes, and most of those say they favor policies banning smoking in their buildings, according to survey results released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Owners of multi-unit housing properties in Los Angeles also expressed strong support, with 92% saying they favor smoke-free policies, according to the results of the survey of more than 5,000 tenants and owners in some of the city’s most densely populated areas.
“We found that one in two tenants said that they were exposed to secondhand smoke and that there is a need to reduce that exposure in order to protect all tenants and children from harmful health effects,” said Peggy Toy, director of the Health DATA Program at the Center for Health Policy Research and lead author of the study.
Currently, that protection is hard to come by. There is no citywide policy in Los Angeles prohibiting tenants from smoking in privately owned apartments and condominiums. And in Los Angeles County, roughly 80% of cities allow smoking in those units.
The danger of exposure to secondhand smoke is well documented. While tenants who smoke may believe they pose no threat to others, secondhand smoke from tobacco, marijuana and e-cigarettes can drift into other units through shared ventilation systems, walls, windows and common areas, endangering other tenants. Drifting secondhand smoke cannot be controlled and has been linked to more than 40,000 annual deaths from heart disease and lung cancer combined, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For the study, nearly 5,000 survey responses were collected from household tenants in a dozen Los Angeles City Council districts, with help from community partners who conducted surveys in English, Spanish and Korean, according to Toy. About 200 surveys were conducted online and over the phone with private owners of multi-unit buildings.
The surveys covered topics such as tenants’ experiences with secondhand smoke in their homes, tenants’ and owners’ views on smoke-free policies, and the potential challenges of enforcing these policies.
“As more people are spending time at home due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that tenants feel safe about their surroundings and protected from exposure to unwanted environmental risks like secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Tony Kuo, director of the division of chronic disease and injury prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
“We are hopeful that multi-unit housing owners, tenants and community stakeholders can come to a solution that protects our communities from this danger in their homes,” he said.
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