It Is Now Illegal To Smoke In Your Own Home In San Rafael, California


In a unanimous decision, members of the San Rafael City Council have approved the strictest type of smoking ordinance in the country. Effective last week, Assembly Bill 746 bans residents of apartments, condos, duplexes, and multi-family houses from smoking cigarettes and "tobacco products" inside their homes.

Moonfall Pix/Flickr

Introduced by Assembly Member Marc Levine and pushed by the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition for over seven years, the ordinance applies to owners and renters in all buildings that house wall-sharing units for three or more families. The purpose is to prevent second-hand smoke from travelling through doors, windows, floorboards, crawl spaces, or ventilation systems (i.e. any conceivable opening) into neighboring units.

San Rafael has joined a growing number of cities, such as Belmont, CA, that have implemented similar bans.* 

Levine said the bill is motivated by his desire to ensure that "Californians [can] breathe clean air in their own homes." He continued, "In apartments or condominiums, whenever a neighbor lights up, everyone in the building smokes with them."

Rebecca Woodbury, an analyst at the City Manager's office who helped write the ordinance, explained some of the bill's specifics to ABC News. "It doesn't matter if it's owner-occupied or renter-occupied," she said. "We didn't want to discriminate. The distinguishing feature is the shared wall…I'm not aware of any ordinance that's stronger."

The bill's proponents cited scientific evidence that shows cigarette smoke is able to travel through the ventilation systems of apartments. Some of this evidence was produced by two CDC studies, which found that roughly 45 percent of apartment dwellers claimed to have been exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes in the past year.

Some anti-smoking groups, like the American Lung Association, have expressed their support for the legislation. The President and CEO of California's division said the ordinance is "groundbreaking" and called for a state-wide ban. 

The ordinance is not without its detractors, however. 

A researcher at the Heartland Institute, a free-market policy think tank in Chicago, said the ban is part of a larger, disturbing trend of government encroachment on personal freedoms. As he told ABC News:

I don't like cigarettes, and I've never taken a puff. My sympathies aren't with smokers because I am one, it's because of the huge growth in laws and punishments and government restricting people more and more. Illinois' criminal code was 72 pages long in 1965; today it's more than 1,300 pages long. 

Brian Augusta, of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said that targeting multifamily units disproportionately affects low-income families and workers. According to the Sacramento Bee, Augusta said, "If smoking is an addiction, and it clearly is, are we telling people that they have to quit smoking—without support—or leave their homes?" 

George Koodray, New Jersey state coordinator for Citizens Freedom Alliance and the Smoker's Club, decried the evidence linking apartment-dwelling to second-hand smoke exposure as weak. "The science for that is spurious at best," he said.

The California Apartment Association has not taken an official position on the issue, but has stated its doubts as to how the ordinance will be enforced and by whom. As it stands, AB 746 levies rule-breakers with fines but does not identify who will respond to complaints or write tickets.

Levine said that he hopes the ordinance will be "self-enforcing," but it's clear that landlords are being prodded to take up the torch. In an informational pamphlet published by the city, landlords are advised to threaten rule-breaking tenants with eviction. 

*This was added to the article to make it clear that San Rafael is not the first city to implement this type of smoking ordinance. 

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  1. …bans residents of apartments, condos, duplexes, and multi-family houses from smoking cigarettes and “tobacco products” inside their homes.

    Not coincidentally, San Rafael city council members earn enough to afford single family homes, so the law only affects the little people.

    1. Beat me to it. This is just more telling poor people what to do.

      For their own good, of course.

  2. “In apartments or condominiums, whenever a neighbor lights up, everyone in the building smokes with them.”

    Far out man, that’s the way it should be.

    1. And nobody bogarts!

    2. And whenever I fart, they all eat shit.

      1. It should be illegal to fart! Except for top men, of course. Their farts smell like roses and actually clear our lungs and purge our minds of liberty.

  3. As it stands, AB 746 levies rule-breakers with fines but does not identify who will respond to complaints or write tickets.

    As usual, nosy neighbors will file complaints, and city police will be called in, procedures followed, dogs shot, etc.

  4. I had a shared-wall condo that was a floor above a heavy smoker, and it positively reeked in the winter. I am an on-again, off-again enjoyer of tobacco products myself, but this lady took it to another level. I don’t support any new laws, but I did seriously consider suing her for breach of property rights.

    1. The heavy smokers always smoke the cheapest, nastiest cigarettes. Doral 120s smell like a medical waste landfill fire.

      1. Man, that was terrible.

        I did consider going to positive Coasean route and paying her to take it outside, but none of the neighbors would go in with me. I didn’t blame them – we were all there before she was – but still…man, we needed something.

        1. We had a guy below us that liked to get and leave before his alarm clock went off, but he wouldn’t turn it off. And it kept going off, until he got home. Of course, that wasn’t everyday, like the smoker. But he did do this on a weekend he went out of town. 53 hours of his alarm clock going off. Luckily, entire basement flooded with about four feet of water and he moved out. And was hopefully raped to death by baboons shortly after.

      2. It’s amazing how much worse some brands are. I smoke and I smoke in my house. And I’m sure you can tell if you don’t smoke. But my house has never has that awful stale ashtray smell that some smokers’ places get.
        I’ve found Marlboro lights to be among the worst.

  5. Levine said the bill is motivated by his desire to ensure that “Californians [can] breathe clean air in their own homes.” He continued, “In apartments or condominiums, whenever a neighbor lights up, everyone in the building smokes with them.”

    Why don’t they just come out and ban smoking all together? It’s clear there is no limiting principle to any of this. In a few years the smoke from your house will be a pollutant that can be taxed or regulated because we all share the same air and you can’t mess with it without government’s permission.

    1. “It’s clear there is no limiting principle to any of this.”

      This is the essence of progressivism. But hey, when you are only trying to do good as you see it, why should you be limited?

    2. They’re addicted to the tax revenues.

    3. That would remove their deniability that prohibition is the end game. Being open about what they want is bad propaganda, like with Obamacare.

    4. “It’s clear there is no limiting principle to any of this.”

      Yeah, but to go all in would make it obvious. They still need that fig leaf of pretending to respect individuals’ autonomy.

  6. I had a neighbor who cooked by deep-frying in animal fats. It was like a rendering plant, and I often had to air my place out with a couple of fans and incense for a half hour before I could stand being in the place. My clothes also were odiferous, noticeable by co-workers. The woman was dirt poor with 3 kids and many visitors. There was no talking to her. I was very happy when she was evicted.

    I can relate, but laws are too restrictive. Common decency is unfortunately too uncommon.

  7. Remember, these are the same people who want to herd us all together in high density housing in high density cities, away from the country and suburbs.

  8. I don’t even think Limbaugh and others that predicted this really thought it would happen in their life time

    1. I’ve learned to never doubt the guy. Way back when he prophesied that the libbies were out to ban my Suburban I winced, feeling such “over the top” rhetoric hurt the cause. A scant 5 years later it was evident he was spot on.

  9. If I make it to 80 I’m going to start smoking again, just to piss the do-gooders off. I have no reasonable expectation to make it to 100 and health effects take 20 years or so to kick in.

    … Hobbit

  10. Yes, but gays can marry in CA, and soon pot will be legal. You can only smoke it in designated pot smoking zones monitored by certified drug rehabilitation counselors, but pot will be legal here soon.

    As you can see, the problem with California is that it’s too libertarian. They shouldn’t be so afraid to spend money once in a while. I predict progressives will return to power one of these days – but will it be too late?

    1. You know if they combine the pot smoking zones with the free speech zones……

      1. It’s a trap!

  11. lol, I dare them to come enforce it! I double dare them!

  12. Fucking Nanny-State Do-Gooders.

    So glad I live in Florida.

    1. My brother used to live in Alachua county. I went to visit him once for our annual scalloping in the gulf and drift diving the Santa Fe river. While I was there I accompanied him to a county commissioners meeting to see about paving his road.

      When we left the first thing he said was “Did you see that?! Everyone of those fuckers were in sandals and had ponytails!”

      I suspect your turn is coming Entropy.

      1. I lived in G’ville for a few years while the Ex was attending UF.

        Growl was always great (Robin Williams, Jay Leno, and I date myself) but the politics of a libtard-college town have always been oppressive.

        I now live about 5 miles from “The Zimmerman Incident”, as has a previous 6 generations of my family. I ain’t leavin’.

        If the Yanquis don’t like Central Florida, like I have always said:

        I-95 goes both ways, bitch.

  13. I live in the south bay, and it does concern me. I occasionally have a fine cigar (Dominican Puro, and the like).I’m not voluminous about it, maybe 1 every week to two weeks. I would really not be happy if my homeowners association, or the city council decided I couldn’t sit in my back yard, and enjoy one.

    1. From the comments:

      Many dont know children in car seats arent safe in front seats because of airbags. You might rejoice at the inevitable deaths of infants…but a solid sticker is a small price to pay. I reckon the freedumb to be ignorant safety tech might create complications is valuable to some…or the fear of fantastical tyranny so great that warning labels resemble death camps.

      Quality trolling, I say.

      1. “You might rejoice at the inevitable deaths of infants….”

        Front-seat airbags are the preferred method of child-sacrifice among modern worshipers of Moloch and Baal.

        Where’s Jack Chick when we need him?

  14. So is evidence of increasing Social Tolerance?

  15. Good luck enforcing that, assholes. What is the eventual outcome? Will they use SWAT Teams deploying Dynamic Entry tactics that result in dead children to nab repeat offenders? Jail and/or brutalize people that refuse to comply/pay fines? For fuck’s sake it would be nice if these do-gooder tyrants actually understood The Law of Unintended Consequences.

    1. But those ARE the intended consequences. They WILL be obeyed, or else. That’s why they ran for office, so they could impose their vision of “how the world should be” on everyone else.

  16. Maybe the Coalission for the Prevention of Blindness can get a ban on jerking off.

  17. Yet when the UK implemented its public spaces indoor ban, the epidemiological statistician, Sir Richard Peto, who, in his earlier career was one of those that worked with Richard Doll discovering the link between smoking and cancer state that second hand smoke was such a small risk that the ban would not save any lives, other than of those who, as a result of the ban, decided to give up smoking. i.e. not recipients of second hand smoke – even indoor staff exposed to it regular and for long periods. And I will continue to believe him over one track minded anti-smoking nuts and politicians until they can come up with evidence to refute him.

  18. I think the law is bullshit.

    I would argue, however, that if smoke from one’s property travels through the vent into another’s property, the former has violated the latter’s property rights. Same with noise pollution.

    Trespassing isn’t necessarily limited to human movement from one property to another, but also the byproducts of human activity moving from one property to another.

    If I can prove my belongings have been tainted by someone else’s activities, or that their activities are affecting myself and my property adversely, don’t I have a legitimate claim against them?

    1. Right, but then it should be up to the offended party to take action.

      It is not acceptable that idiotic nanny-state regulators tell us what we can or cannot do at home.

      If your neighbors’ smoke disturbs you, tell them, and probably you will find a good mutually fair solution without parental supervision of the nanny-state.

      If no solution can be found, you can sue them. With the current holy war against smokers, it would be an easy win.

  19. Do I hear RECALL in their future? Every single day we report on government overstep and over regulation on our Poor Man Survival site and blog…when are these control freaks going away and/or when is the public going to finally say ENOUGH and impeach/recall these communistic flatworms?

  20. They can pound sand. Come put my smoke out in MY home, YOU DIE! I don’t care WHO you are, you come try to put my smoke out YOU will get snuffed out. Total insanity. I wonder where it will stop, or will it just keep going? Soon they will be telling you when you can inhale and exhale, when to piss etc. I saw this coming in the 80’s when the commies started making their big moves, nobody listened.

  21. Smokers whine, Non-smokers whine, everyone whines. Smokers want to smoke, non-smokers want “fresh air”. There hasnt been any fresh air, for 100’s of years. If you want fresh air, then remove all the cars, industrial plants, and everything else that causes “smoke, smog, etc”. Just about anything and everything gives you cancer these days not just “tobacco” products. There are more important things to worry about than smokers.

    Drunk driving, Texting while driving, Drug selling, Theft, Robberies, Rapes, the list goes on. How about dealing with that stuff, instead of this petty crap with tobacco and smokers. Non-smokers got their “no smoking in restaurants, bars, etc, any place with food, and other places. Take a break from wanting everything and worry about whats really causing this countries problems.

    1. You think air was “fresh” in the times when we had open sewers with dead cats floating in them? The times before those horrible cars and industrial plants existed in other words. The air is cleaner in industrialized countries that it is anywhere else and at any other time. Move to an undeveloped country away from cars and industry if you don’t believe me.

  22. We own and live in a duplex. Ours is a ground-level, side-by-side type. There are absolutely no shared resources, airways or passages of any kind. This goes for the attic and crawl space as well – they are totally sealed from each other. The shared wall is a layer of drywall, a layer of UL-rated firewall material that is not penetrated at all by anything, not even electrical outlets or wiring, and then insulation and more of the same wallboard/firewall material on the opposite side. It is far more likely smoke would have to travel out one window and into another than penetrate from one unit to another through the building materials. As someone mentioned above, a top/bottom configuration would be a little different.

  23. Soon Heisenberg will be producing the best cigarettes in America. 30 years from now people will be taking tobacco prohibition for granted. Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic but it seems the War on Drugs (the prohibition on every-fucking-thing) is going to get worse before it’s going to get better. How it can get worse than it is right now is hard to imagine, though when it comes to making the lives of citizens the worst they can be politicians are the most imaginative of people.

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