Survey shows tenants want protection from secondhand smoke

Tenants in Merced County want more protections from secondhand smoke in multiunit housing, according to a recent survey by the American Lung Association.

The survey revealed that Merced County residents are aware of the health risks associated with secondhand smoke. Of those surveyed, 69 percent favored a rule prohibiting smoking in the outdoor common areas of apartments such as swimming pools, courtyards and play areas, while 61 percent favored no-smoking rules inside apartment units.

Sixty-two percent said they were concerned about the health effects of secondhand smoke drifting into their rental units. According to the poll, 38 percent of the tenants reported experiencing secondhand smoke in their housing complex within the last year. Currently, only 38 percent of tenants in the county report living in an apartment complex with any rules limiting smoking.

“Breathing secondhand smoke in multiunit housing is a health problem because smoke drifts from neighboring units, patios, balconies and outdoor common areas through open windows, doors and shared ventilation systems,” Kathleen Grassi, director of the Merced County Department of Public Health, said in a news release. “This survey shows that residents across Merced County want to be protected from secondhand smoke exposure in their homes.”

According to Grassi, restricting smoking in multiunit housing can improve residents’ health and result in financial benefits to landlords and owners through reduced maintenance and turnover costs.

Merced was one of 12 counties in the state surveyed. Some of the other counties assessed include Tulare, Imperial, Humboldt and Monterey. Across the 12 counties, the poll showed that concern about protection from secondhand smoking was greater among Latinos, women and tenants under 50.

The California Air Resources Board has identified secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant, alongside asbestos, cyanide and arsenic.