Smoking Bans

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Passes Ban on Smoking Tobacco, but Not Cannabis, in Private Apartments

Violators face fines of up to $1,000.

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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has banned people from smoking in their own apartments.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Examiner reports, the board voted 10–1 in favor of a bill, sponsored by retiring Supervisor Norman Yee, to prohibit smoking tobacco inside private dwellings in buildings with three or more units. Violators of the new law could receive fines of up to $1,000 for smoking.

The version of the bill that passed out of committee last month had also applied to smoking legal cannabis. An amendment adopted by the board on Tuesday exempts marijuana from the ban. That change came at the behest of cannabis advocates who argued that the bill was a "classist" assault on apartment-dwelling medical marijuana users.

"The legislation seeks to protect air quality for nonsmokers, but would do so at the cost of the health and civil liberties of cannabis users including seriously ill medical cannabis patients," wrote Nina Parks of the city's Cannabis Oversight Committee in a letter opposing Yee's bill. "The ordinance would disallow smoking, but only for people in multi-unit residential buildings, meaning that San Franciscans who can afford to buy free-standing homes would be unaffected and could still smoke in peace."

Exempting cannabis smoke from the bill stops San Francisco from effectively reversing marijuana legalization for people who live in multifamily housing. (It is illegal to smoke cannabis in public or inside businesses, save for the city's cannabis lounges, which are closed during the pandemic.) But it also undercuts the justification for the bill, which is to prevent non-smokers from being bothered by invasive fumes.

Various health groups, including the local chapters of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, and the San Francisco Tobacco-Free Coalition, endorsed Yee's bill as a means of cracking down on dangerous second-hand smoke. That argument is pretty thin, given the mounting evidence that the dangers posed by second-hand smoke have been wildly overblown.

In response to this growing evidence, supporters of smoking bans have shifted their justification for these laws from guarding against the dangers of second-hand smoke to stigmatizing smokers themselves. If your bad habit is illegal in public, the thinking goes, there's a greater chance you'll give it up.

But even if one accepts that the government should be imposing a social stigma on a victimless activity, that wouldn't justify San Francisco's ban on smoking in private apartments, given that there is no one else around to make one feel stigmatized.

Indeed, to if this new ban compels people to smoke on public streets, it might actually lessen the smoking stigma.

Of course, there are plenty of people who would rather not have to smell tobacco smoke in their own homes. Fortunately, there's a way to accommodate that preference without restrictive nanny state laws, as I wrote last month:

People's ability to find a building that caters to their indoor smoking preferences is made much more difficult by San Francisco's ban on apartments in much of the city. That shortage of housing is forcing these two groups of people to live cheek-by-ashtray in whatever homes they can find, leading to conflict.

Surely a better solution would be to legalize new construction so that consumers can choose from more types of housing in more places. Smokers and nonsmokers alike would then be more able to pick environments that better suits their needs.

The city's Board of Supervisors will have to take a second, final vote on the ordinance before it's sent to the Mayor for final approval.

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    1. Can Native Americans smoke tobacco in their apartments for medicinal reasons?

      1. Apartments? I believe the preferred term is longhouses.

        1. The Warren tribe actually uses smoke huts with Listerine bottles scattered outside to ward off animals.

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  2. If your bad habit is illegal in public, the thinking goes, there’s a greater chance you’ll give it up.

    Do you want a revolution. I am pretty sure this is how you get a revolution.

    But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

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  3. “Of course, there are plenty of people who would rather not have to smell tobacco smoke in their own homes.”

    Every apartment lease I’ve ever signed said I couldn’t smoke inside the apartment, my current one even says my neighbors can sue me for lack of enjoyment of the property if I were to smoke and it affected them.

    No government intervention is needed here. Most landlords don’t want you smoking inside because you might be a moron and burn the place down, and failing that you at least stink up the joint in a way that’s hard to fix for the next tenant.

    Of course they cannot just let the free market and contract law solve this, only the saints on the city council could possibly deal with such a scourge.

    1. If the SF city council can’t virtue signal, what is the point of their jobs?

  4. What sort of apartments are people in SF living that smoke from their neighbors is an issue?

    1. My apartment isn’t in San Francisco, but it’s a nearly 100 year old building with plenty of air leaks between units, and the HVAC system is such that both the furnace and the air conditioner use the shared basement as a plenum (a space where return air is dumped out and fresh air is taken in).

      As such, you can definitely smell when your neighbors are cooking, or smoking, or anything like that. I’ve never smoked in my apartment – I have always smoked outside. A few years ago my landlord made it an official policy that indoor smoking was banned, after the last of the indoor smokers moved out. I didn’t mind at the time, because hey, it’s his building, and I don’t smoke inside anyway.

      But two of the four people in our building now smoke pot. Indoors, constantly. Apparently the building policy either only applies to tobacco, or they just don’t care. When we were forced to work from home in March-April-May of this year, it was pretty annoying.

  5. Welcome to left wing hell folks. Prepare for more of this lots more.

    1. Try growing up with a Jewish mother. State kvetching is mild in comparison.

  6. Weed is what cool people smoke; tobacco is for old people and other losers, the thinking goes. So, we legislate against personal choice to codify that belief. This is where government goes when it’s run by those with an activist mentality.

    1. Only right-wing, rural retards who work blue collar jobs and drive pickup trucks smoke tobacco.

      1. Apparently there were enough right-wing, rural pickup truck drivers in SF to cause the city to curtail their freedom of choice while leaving someone else’s alone.

      2. We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee. We don’t get high on LSD.

    2. Tobacco is still cool, but only if you’re smoking it out of a hookah.

  7. board of stupidvisors

  8. So, in *San Francisco* they’re looking for vices to stigmatize by law?

  9. Meh. Can’t smoke much anyway while wearing the soon to be required 24/7 mask. And if smoking annoys your Diversity Board-assigned LGTB girlfriend/boyfriend/itfriend you might get your ass kicked.

  10. Yee is a genuine, true dictionary fascist. He probably knows it and is secretly proud.

  11. How about vaping? And what if, like the Europeans, you smoke a mixture of cannabis and tobacco, or tobacco dipped in hash oil?

    1. I heard SF banned the sale of vaping devices (containing nicotine anyway) last year, can’t even order them online and have them delivered to an address in the city. My guess is that they probably ban vaping too, although much harder to enforce than ban on smoking, but hey, it won’t stop them

      1. I almost took a job in SF in the early 2000s but declined it because there were too many self-righteous assholes it seemed. Looks like it’s gotten worse.

    2. They also banned vaping of nicotine (even though vaping emits <1% of toxins in cigarette smoke), but not vaping of marijuana.

      But the only citations ever issued (in the US) for illegal vaping were vape shops (and that was due to one of their competitors reporting them to the health department).

      While vaping is much less harmful than smoking, Obama's FDA made it illegal for any vape manufacturer from truthfully claiming vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking.

      Meanwhile, although vaping has helped ten million smokers quit cigarette smoking, the CDC and SG falsely claim (due to lobbying by Big Pharma) vaping doesn't help smokers quit, while urging all smokers to buy/use Big Pharma's ineffective smoking cessation drugs.

  12. PCP still cool I hope.

  13. Cannibis activism has now publicly stooped to rent seeking.

    1. Everyone knew it would happen once they said, “Tax my weed, bro.”

      They got owned. Decriminalized, now mandatory.

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  15. Any apartment I lived in also had a no smoking rule in the lease. Actually any lease, house or apartment had this rule. Don’t smoke so no big deal to me. But was wondering…in different parts of the country (US) and maybe different countries the term apartment has different meanings. Where I’m from an apartment is always rented but a coworker in NY owns his apartment. The law is stupid no matter what and just another push into what you can and can’t do inside your own house. A$$holes.

    1. You’re right; it’s an even bigger issue in condos (where people own their apartments) because residents have money invested and see their apartment more as a permanent home. So, you put tens or hundreds of thousands down and move in, only to find out the couple below you are chain smokers and your place smells like a pool hall (pre-smoking bans) even though you don’t smoke indoors, or at all. It’s been the subject of many lawsuits, and from what I’ve seen the non-smoker often wins on the basis that the constant intrusion of smoke interferes with the quiet enjoyment of their home.

      Individual complaints, or even lawsuits, are a better way to address this issue than with a capricious law that doesn’t even really fix anything anyhow because it exempts marijuana. In response to complaints, smokers could be required to buy and use HEPA air purifiers, which remove smoke very well if they’re sized properly for the area. Smokers might also be required to pay for HVAC upgrades to keep smoke from moving from one unit to another. But of course the law was designed in large part as social engineering, not to address apartment dwellers’ complaints, so there was apparently no attempt to explore any other ways to address the problem.

  16. The brightnoses here in Crescent City CA did just that several weeks ago when they voted 4 to 1 to ban smoking inside apartments.

    Not a smoker myself and hate the stuff…but…
    This ought to get interesting

    https://www.triplicate.com/news/council-finalizes-smoking-ban/article_935f720c-2b4e-11eb-a02a-df099d16cc21.html

  17. One of my friends went on vacation to San Francisco. When he got back he complained homeless people were everywhere and half the city smelled like pee.

    But yeah people smoking in their overpriced apartments is the priority. Maybe the city council became nose blind to the pee smell?

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