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Cracking Down On Lighting Up

With a new study out that shows the dangers of secondhand smoke cigarettes from neighbors in residential buildings, Los Angeles County health officials are hoping more cities will ban smoking cigarettes inside apartments.

Preliminary results from a study released Wednesday by the county health department show that cigarettes smoke cigarettes particles can seep into the units of nonsmokers through air ducts, electrical cracks, and under doorways and can reach "significant levels equal to and exceeding those of a smoky bar or casino."

"California is the largest smoke-free zone in the nation, but the bans don't protect children," said Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

He and other health officials presented charts during a news conference at Children's Hospital Los Angeles that showed how secondhand smoke cigarettes passes from one apartment unit to another, and can linger for hours.

"The bans don't protect the places where children live, eat and sleep," Winickoff said. "People can choose to smoke, but children have no voice and no choice."

An estimated 336,000 children are at risk of secondhand smoke cigarettes exposure in Los Angeles County, where 41 percent of housing units are multi-unit structures, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, health director for the county's Department of Public Health.

But children who live in the San Fernando Valley, the South Bay and East Los Angeles are at higher risk of secondhand smoke cigarettes exposure because of housing density.

In addition, children who live in low-income housing units are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke cigarettes because parents may not have the option to move, he said.

Because of the amount of carcinogens contained in a cigarette, secondhand smoke cigarettes can trigger asthma attacks, exacerbate underlying health conditions, and even cause sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

"Even if you are a nonsmoker, you and your family might still be exposed to toxic levels of cheap cigarettes smoke cigarettes at all hours of the day inside your own home," Fielding said.

The study, conducted by researchers from Stanford University and released to coincide with today's Great American Smokeout, also revealed that 1 out of 4 across Los Angeles favor smoking cigarettes bans in apartment dwellings.

Los Angeles has long been at the forefront of anti-smoking cigarettes measures. Earlier this year, the city began enforcing an ordinance to ban smoking cigarettes within 10 feet of any outdoor dining area.

Smoking also is banned within 40 feet of mobile food trucks, carts and food kiosks. Fines of up to $500 for noncompliance can be levied against both businesses and patrons. As with other smoking cigarettes regulations in the county, the law is designed to be self-enforced.

Smokers also are prohibited from lighting up at beaches, in parks and buildings and at farmers markets that the city has instituted since 2004.

Calabasas took it further. In 2006, the city was the first to ban lighting up in all public places, apartment common areas, restaurants and bars. Two years later, city officials ruled that 80 percent of all apartments must be permanently designated nonsmoking cigarettes units by 2012.

Statewide, a property owner will have the right to call his or her building a nonsmoking cigarettes one beginning in January. A bill introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September is expected to expand the availability of smoke-free housing in California by allowing landlords to prohibit smoking cigarettes in rental units.

But health officials and some residents say that the bill doesn't go deep enough.

Los Angeles isn't contemplating a citywide ban yet. But City Councilman Paul Koretz, who has worked on such ordinances for nearly 30 years starting with when he helped incorporate the city of West Hollywood, said he was open to discussions.

"It's a ticklish issue but in some cases it has devastating effects on people," he said of secondhand smoke. "We have to be careful that we have adequate protections built in (such ordinances), but I think we should find a way to protect tenants from exposures."

One group that represents 9,400 property owners and landlords said there are both pros and cons of banning smoking cigarettes in apartment units.

"We don't want to be the nonsmoking cigarettes police. However, a nonsmoking cigarettes apartment is a non-wear-and-tear building," said Jim Clarke, executive director for the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.

The cost to repaint walls, replace carpeting, and clean air ducts where a smoker lives has some landlords thinking it's cheaper to run a nonsmoking cigarettes building.

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