Alameda County Board of Supervisors bans smoking in multi-unit residences

Smoking in multi-unit residents in Alameda County's Unincorporated Areas will be prohibited in July, thanks to an unanimous vote from the county's board of supervisors on Tuesday.

After three years of discussion, policymakers passed the ordinance in hopes of preventing secondhand smoke in residential structures like apartments, townhomes, senior care facilities and any other residence with two or more units. 

Smoking cigarette

Starting July 1, smoking will also not be allowed in common outdoor and indoor areas or within 25 feet of any opening of a residence like a door or window.

"I represent some of the most at-risk residents of our County, with shorter life expectancies, poorer health outcomes and higher rates of asthma and other respiratory challenges," District 4 Supervisor Nate Miley said in a statement. "Today's action represents a collaboration between advocates, community members, health experts and property owners and is one step closer to cleaner air in our homes."

For people in multi-unit residences, which the board said are more likely to be people of color, lower-income and uninsured compared to those living in single-family home, the effects of stay-at-home suggestions due to the COVID-19 pandemic can have compounding effects on their health.

"Today's passage of the multi-unit smoke free ordinance sends a powerful message to our unincorporated community that their health and wellbeing are of the utmost importance to the County," District 3 Supervisor Dave Brown said in a statement. "As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, I appreciate the work of our Public Health Department to help ensure the safety of our residents during this difficult time."

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Those in violation of the ordinance will receive three notices from the county's public health department before being fined in amounts from $100 to $500. Residents with three warnings and three fines are also subject to eviction from their landlord.

A 2020 La Familia survey of Eden Area residents in unincorporated Alameda County reported 93 percent of participants smelled smoke or vape fumes in their unit.

"This Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing Ordinance will change the lives of those suffering from secondhand smoke now and will contribute to a healthier, more equitable, living standard for future generations to come," stated Jade Le, program manager with La Familia. "The Board of Supervisors are setting a precedent for safe, smoke-free living with such a comprehensive policy."