Anti-smoking advocates scored a partial victory on Monday night as the West Hollywood City Council in a 4-1 vote approved a partial ban on smoking tobacco in apartment and condominium buildings in the city.
The ban approved is a compromise which allows existing tenants to continue smoking tobacco in their units, but forbids tobacco smoking for all new tenants. However, the Council intends to eventually move toward having all multi-family residential buildings in the city be completely free of tobacco smoke, while still allowing marijuana smoke.
Under the terms of the ordinance approved:
- Smoking tobacco or cannabis is banned in all common areas, indoor or outdoor.
- Smoking tobacco is banned in all new buildings, but smoking cannabis is allowed. Similarly, vaping tobacco or vaping cannabis is allowed.
- Smoking tobacco is banned with all new leases of existing buildings, but smoking cannabis would be allowed. Vaping is also allowed.
- Smoking tobacco or cannabis by existing tenants is permitted, provided it is not already prohibited by the lease. As soon as the unit is vacated, it automatically becomes a non-smoking unit.
- Smoking tobacco or cannabis on outdoor private patios or balconies of existing buildings is allowed.
- Smoking tobacco on the outdoor private patios or balconies of any new building is banned.
The distinctions between tobacco and cannabis smoking are because marijuana has medicinal uses, which tobacco does not. Similarly, state law forbids smoking cannabis in public places like the sidewalk, but does allow tobacco smoking on the sidewalks. Thus tobacco smokers have options for places to go to smoke that cannabis smokers do not have.
An estimated 15% of WeHo residents smoke tobacco. There are no figures for the number of cannabis users.
In addition to these bans, the Council decided that it wants to eventually make all apartments/condos in the city tobacco-smoke free, regardless of whether the existing smoking tenant is still living there.
However, councilmembers did not decide on a specific date to implement that, instead making it a goal to work toward. The city will survey residents to get feedback before setting a date for the city to go tobacco smoke free.
“If we’re going to commit to a date certain, I don’t think we have enough information. I am concerned about our existing tenants,” said Councilmember Sepi Shyne. “I don’t think setting a time tonight is the right time to do it . . . but perhaps something for the future with more information and thoughtfulness put into it.”
The ban on smoking in common areas goes into effect 30 days after the ordinance is finalized, which should happen at the next Council meeting on Feb. 16. That means the common area ban would go into effect about March 17.
The requirement that smoking be banned in all new leases goes into effect 90 days after the ordinance is finalized, which should be in mid-May. The different in the two effective dates was to give time for notification to landlords and building managers.
If a person is caught in violation, a first time offense would bring a $250 fine, a second offense would bring a $500 fine and a third offense would bring a $1,000 fine. Each of those fines carries an additional $50 administrative fee.
Under the ordinance approved, violating the tobacco smoking ban does not constitute grounds for eviction.
Single family homes and duplexes are exempt from these ordinances, as are special needs housing facilities for people with disabilities, including substance addiction.
During the public comment period, various health advocates spoke in favor of the ban, mentioning the health risks of second-hand smoke exposure.
The only person speaking against the ban during public comment was resident and cannabis advocate Jackie Subeck who urged the Council to leave it to landlords and homeowners associations to decide whether to make their buildings smoke free.
Mayor Lindsey Horvath cast the only vote against the ban, but did not offer any explanation for her NO vote. In past discussions, she has been supportive of the apartment smoking ban and indicated at Monday’s meeting that she supported making the city smoke free.