Majority of LA rental units remain unprotected from secondhand smoke despite HUD ruling

Renters living in approximately 780,000 privately owned rental units remain unprotected from secondhand smoke in the city of Los Angeles, despite the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announcement that public housing developments in the U.S. will be required to provide a smoke-free environment for their residents.

“This is terrific news,” said Peggy Toy, director of UCLA-Smokefree Air For Everyone (UCLA-SAFE). “But in the city of Los Angeles, public housing is only a small share of the housing stock. We need to make sure all residents in the rest of the city’s multi-unit rentals also have protection from secondhand smoke.”

More than 3,100 public housing agencies (PHAs) across the nation can now put in place required smoke-free policies over the next 18 months.

The federal ruling prohibits lit tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings.

There are only 6,500 public housing units in the city, according to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. In comparison, there are 780,000 privately owned rental units in the city, of which approximately 624,000 of them (80 percent) are under rent-control, according to The Los Angeles Housing Department.  None of these privately-owned units will benefit from the new HUD protections.

UCLA-SAFE launched a smoke-free housing initiative in Los Angeles in April 2016 that encourages owners of market-rate multi-unit apartments in densely populated areas of the city to voluntarily put in place smoke-free policies to reduce residents’ exposure to secondhand smoke.

UCLA-SAFE, supported by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, focuses its efforts on densely populated neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles where a high proportion of Latinos and African-Americans live. The two groups have among the highest rates of chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In conjunction with the campaign kickoff, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released a study that showed a majority of tenants favored smoke-free apartments, but 80 percent of units did not have smoke-free policies.

The CDC estimates cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans each year, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the HUD press release. In addition, smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths in multifamily buildings.

AAGLA Plays Critical Role in Educating Apartment Owners About Smokefree Housing

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Herbert Molano

With 7,800 members and a commitment to serve more than 20,000 apartment building owners and managers, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) plays an important role in  efforts to expand smokefree apartment living in Los Angeles.

Executive Vice President Herbert Molano understands there will be challenges. But he’s confident that through education and assistance, many apartment owners will be willing to voluntarily regulate smoking in their units under the UCLA–Smokefree Air for Everyone (UCLA-SAFE) project, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to the issue of public health, Molano believes the financial savings apartment owners would benefit from in the form of reduced insurance premiums and maintenance costs will be a major incentive in their willingness to give smokefree housing serious consideration.

“We respect independent business owners and their property rights,” he explained. “At the same time, there are significant financial rewards to be gained by going smokefree. Our job is to educate apartment owners about the benefits, and streamline the process so that they can make an informed decision.”

Molano said AAGLA staff is spending time in Los Angeles neighborhoods informing apartment owners about the benefits of smokefree housing. Such conversations are taking place at AAGLA-sponsored forums and workshops. Continue reading…

CDC Study: Exposure to Secondhand Smoke More Common in Multi-Unit Housing

smoke-from-cigaretteFor many years, it’s been a known scientific fact that inhaling tobacco smoke is bad for your well-being, causing health problems that include heart and lung disease.

In a recently released study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that people living in multi-unit housing – such as apartments – are more likely to smoke or be exposed to harmful secondhand smoke compared to those living in single-family homes.

These findings show the importance of protecting people who live in multi-unit housing from being exposed to secondhand smoke, and providing those who smoke with access to tobacco cessation resources.

“This CDC study confirms that apartment residents are more likely to breathe toxic secondhand smoke against their will,” said Marlene Gomez, Project Manager of the Smokefree Apartments Los Angeles (SALA) initiative.

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CDTech is Key Partner in Achieving Smokefree Apartment Living in Los Angeles

Benny Torres Photo

Benny Torres

As an organization that has a long track record of engaging residents in South Los Angeles to improve their quality-of-life, the Community Development Technologies Center (CDTech) knows a few things about rallying residents around a just cause.

So when the possibility came for the non-profit organization to join the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research to promote smokefree apartment living in South Los Angeles, where it’s based, CDTech jumped at the opportunity.

“We have vast experience in engaging residents in the areas of public health, safety and economic development issues,” said President and CEO Benny Torres. “Smoking is a detriment on people’s health. If we can encourage smokefree living in our community, that will be an achievement we can all be proud of.”

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FAME Corporations: A Committed Partner With Impressive Track Record

Denise Brown Photo

Denise Brown

With a mission to foster self-sufficient, healthy and secure communities for families across Los Angeles, FAME Corporations is a natural fit to be a partner to the Smokefree Apartments Los Angeles (SALA) initiative.

By joining the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research in its efforts to increase access to smokefree apartments across the city, FAME believes that will improve the quality-of-life for thousands of Angelenos.

“Helping residents in high-need communities to combat exposure to unwanted, drifting secondhand tobacco smoke is a natural fit with our mission to empower communities to be healthy places,” said Denise Brown, President and CEO.

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Esther Schiller: A Champion for Smokefree Air

Esther Picture 4.2015

Esther Schiller

As executive director and a founder of Smokefree Air for Everyone (S.A.F.E.), Esther Schiller has dedicated much of her career to a cause that’s dear to her heart: preventing tobacco smoke from jeopardizing the health of non-smokers.

There are powerful reasons behind Schiller’s commitment, having herself been a victim of secondhand smoke, which is what drives her motivation to help others.

“I was myself injured by tobacco smoke,” she explains. “I used to sing professionally and I lost my voice because of exposure to tobacco smoke. As a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I was also subjected to breathing secondhand smoke that drifted into my classroom. This was before smoking was prohibited in the workplace. So as you can see, it’s personal for me.”

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Public Launch of Smokefree Apartments Los Angeles is a Success

UCLA Center for Health Policy Research Smoke Free Apartments Press Conference 160406

The recent public launch of Smokefree Apartments Los Angeles (SALA) consisting of a press conference that attracted much media coverage was a huge success, launching the initiative into the public arena and eliciting interest into the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.

During the April 6 press conference at FAME Gardens apartment complex in South L.A., the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the lead agency, released two studies that surveyed tenant and landlord opinions concerning secondhand smoke exposure in apartments.

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HACLA and HUD Smoking Bans Provide Momentum for UCLA-SAFE to Expand Smokefree Apartment Living Across Los Angeles

African American Saying No to CigsIn another example of how secondhand smoke is viewed as a health hazard that needs public attention, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) has adopted a policy that prohibits smoking in its apartment buildings and common areas.

Implementation of this policy began in January of this year, and residents have signed lease addendums to that effect. However, sensitive to the sudden impact of such a policy, HACLA won’t begin enforcing the smoking ban until January of 2018 to provide for a 24-month phase-in of this new policy.

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Los Angeles Receives Poor Grade for its Tobacco Control Efforts

Hand Stopping SmokeAs UCLA-SAFE continues to work on efforts to reduce and eliminate secondhand smoke exposure among apartment residents in Los Angeles, it has become evident that the city has a long way to go when it comes to protecting tenants from tobacco smoke where they live.

In its “State of Tobacco Control 2016” report, the American Lung Association gave Los Angeles an “F” grade in its “Smokefree Housing” category, and a “C” grade for “Overall Tobacco Control.” California as a whole “continues to fall behind other states in protecting its residents from the burden of tobacco,” the American Lung Association stated in its report.

This conclusion should sound an alarm, because tobacco-related deaths are the single, most preventable cause of death in the state. As such, the lung association notes it’s time to take action to protect residents from the deadly effects of tobacco smoke.

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FAME Corporations Bans Smoking in Apartment Buildings to Protect Tenant Health

FAME Apartment Building in South Los Angeles That is now Smokefree.

FAME apartment building in South Los Angeles that is now smokefree.

With a mission to foster self-sufficient, healthy and secure communities for families across Los Angeles, FAME Corporations has taken action to improve the health of the approximately 1,000 tenants who live in apartment buildings owned and operated by the organization.

Effective Jan. 1, 2016, a new policy prohibiting all types of smoking took effect at the organization’s 12 apartment buildings, according to Jazmine P. Guillen, a manager of FAME’s Tobacco Control Program.

The organization has placed no-smoking signs throughout its apartment buildings, which include 314 units. In an effort to inform residents of the new policy, FAME has placed display cases at the entrances to all the complexes with information explaining the new tobacco-free policy, as well as resources on tobacco cessation.

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