by Marlene Christine Hurd
To educate our entire Oakland community, I’m writing to explain why Oakland needs a smoke-free multi-unit housing policy. This is a social justice issue.
Smoking and tobacco products kill more African-Americans than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drug use, homicide, suicide and other non-tobacco related cancers. We must educate our youth and communities regarding the dangers of smoking because it is an unhealthy life choice for them.
On Dec. 5, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published a final rule requiring smoke-free policies for all public housing authorities. Effective Feb. 3, 2017, all public housing authorities have 18 months to pass such a policy. For more information, visit https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/healthy_homes/smokefree.
Smoking and tobacco products kill more African-Americans than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drug use, homicide, suicide and other non-tobacco related cancers.
Examples of smoke-free environments in California are workplaces, restaurants, indoor public areas, parks, outdoor dining, and in cars with children under the age of 18. It would be great if all multi-unit housing in Oakland were smoke free, not just those in public housing.
What is second hand smoke (SHS)? It is the smoke exhaled by the person who is smoking and the smoke burning off the tip of the cigarette. SHS is a known carcinogen and is as deadly as the worst industrial air pollutants. It has 4,000 chemicals, of which 250 are toxic and at least 69 can cause cancer. No level of secondhand tobacco smoke is safe, PERIOD.
What is the problem? Exposure to SHS in multi-unit properties creates health dangers for all tenants, including children and the elderly. The smoke drifts and travels throughout the building through electrical outlets, shared ventilation systems, under doors and through windows.
No level of secondhand tobacco smoke is safe, PERIOD.
Why does this matter to me? I have personally encountered second hand smoke where I live and my experience made me so ill that I was coughing and it affected my breathing.
My neighbor also shared his family’s on-going experience with SHS living on the first floor of our building. Neighbors smoke outside in front of the doorway, and the SHS travels to his bathroom window.
Now when I come in contact with SHS, I personally educate the smoker about the SHS dangers. I also provide them with resources where they can get help.
Breathing clean air while living in a multi-unit housing building is a health equity issue. Tenants want to restrict smoking in multi-unit housing. In Alameda County, most adults do not smoke.
The majority of multi-unit housing residents believe that everyone has a right to live in a smoke-free building. Smoking is banned where most adults work and play. In your home, where young children, the elderly and the disabled spend most of their time, are you protected from SHS?
Breathing clean air while living in a multi-unit housing building is a health equity issue.
Cities in the Bay Area that have passed smoke-free housing laws are Alameda, Belmont, Berkeley, Burlingame, El Cerrito, Foster City, Petaluma, Richmond, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sebastopol, Union City, Walnut Creek, and unincorporated areas of Santa Clara, Sonoma and San Mateo counties. The City of Oakland could add its name to this list by passing a multi-unit housing smoke-free policy.
What’s the solution? Oakland needs a strong 100 percent smoke-free multi-unit housing policy. We must educate our youth and communities regarding why Oakland needs it.
Marlene Hurd is a political activist, policy advocate, Mills College alumna and a former student of Professor Wanda Sabir. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.