Future Leaders of America (FLA) students hosted a community forum in late February to educate Carpinteria families about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke in their communities. In attendance were students, families, community members, nonprofits, as well as Carpinteria City Council member Natalia Alarcon and Santa Barbara County Council Supervisor Das Williams.
According to the CDC, there is no safe amount of exposure to secondhand smoke, and the home is the primary place children and adults breathe in secondhand smoke. Advocates of smoke-free apartments believe such a policy is important to protect the health of non-smokers, especially low-income residents who live in these dense, shared-wall apartment complexes.
Studies show that second-hand smoke can seep through doorways, cracks in walls, ventilation systems, power lines, and plumbing throughout the complex. Neighboring residents can be harmed by second-hand smoke even without a smoker present in their individual unit.
For low-income Latinos, multi-unit buildings are the only places we could afford to live, and second-hand smoke is definitely something that negatively affects our population. I was a former renter who suffered from secondhand smoke, and as a renter there is not much you can do about it. You can express your concerns to the property manager, but since there is no policy, nothing can be confirmed.
Each year, 28 million residents of multi-unit buildings are exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes and apartments. Many cities in California have already enacted laws to have smoke-free multi-unit housing, including Berkeley, Culver City, Morro Bay, and Pasadena, as well as Santa Clara County and many others. FLA youth are advocating for Carpinteria to be next.
Nadra Ehrman, who is a property manager for the Towbes Group, spoke about the benefits of a smoke-free multi-unit policy for property managers. The policy helps with asset management for properties, as smoke repairs can be very expensive. Cleaning a home with a heavy smoker can cost up to $3,000 more than cleaning a smoke-free home. Additionally, 7,600 smoking-related fires occur each year in residential buildings in the United States. Ehrman also said that in the 10 years since the Towbes Group implemented the smoke-free policy, it has only received three complaints out of approximately 1,000 residents. The benefits clearly outweigh the cost.
Overall, the message from young people came through loud and clear: second-hand smoke kills and everyone should have clean air to breathe where they live.
Ector Flores-Garcia is the Carpinteria Youth Organizer for Future Leaders of America.