The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to delay a controversial ban on smoking and vaping tobacco products in multi-unit, privately owned apartment buildings, sending the issue back to committees for further study. The motion to postpone the proposal passed on a 6-to-5 vote.
On December 2, the board voted 10 to 1 to advance Board President Norman Yee’s proposed ordinance that bans smoking and vaping in privately owned apartments. Yee, and four other board members, opposed the motion to hold off on the final vote.
Supervisor Dean Preston, the only no-vote during the initial vote last week, found issue with the ordinance, after some tenant advocacy groups claimed that the ban on smoking could negatively impact renters.
Yee’s initial proposal would charge violators of the ordinance fines of up to $1,000 and bring potential tenant harassment actions taken by the city government.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin led the vote to delay the proposed ordinance. Peskin said that he’s “remarkably moved” by concerns constituents have voiced about the ban.
“I really am fearful that the unintended impacts could cause more harm to long term tenants in my district and other districts,” Peskin said, according to The San Francisco Examiner. “I do want to address the harm of secondhand smoke in multi-unit residential buildings, but I think there are better ways to address this.”
Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University, says that the move to further study the issue of banning smoke and vapor in apartment buildings is a mixed blessing.
“I am delighted to hear that the San Francisco board of supervisors has reversed its decision to ban vaping in all multi-unit dwellings,” Siegel told InsideSources. “However, the reason for its reversal is concerning.”
Siegel believes that the board of supervisors only voted against the ordinance this time is due to concerns of political fallout — not the potential for tobacco harm reduction benefits.
“They apparently changed their decision because they were concerned about complaints from constituents,” Siegel said. “If this were really as an important health issue as they argue, then failing to take action just because a few long-term tenants object would not be a valid justification.”
Siegel previously told InsideSources that much of the justification for banning smoking and vaping in private apartments is built on miscommunicated scientific evidence about the associated harms of secondhand vapor aerosols.
Yee’s proposal is not dead. Instead, it’s been sent back to the committees for review and markup.
In 2019, the board of supervisors took the step to completely ban the sale of all nicotine vaping products until the long-term effects of their use are known to regulators.
This is an indefinite ban.