Signaling concerns about cigarette smoking in condominiums and the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, the Sunny Isles Beach City Commission recently passed a resolution urging the Florida Legislature to amend the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act to ban smoking in outdoor common areas of a condominium – except in areas specifically designated for smoking.
CHANGE IN THE AIR? At the Feb. 16 City Commission meeting, Winston Towers resident Arlene Koenig spoke in favor of the resolution supporting a smoking ban in common areas of condominiums, noting, “This is a bold step – change is in the air and [the Sunny Isles Beach City Commission] is at the forefront of initiating this change…Let’s be ‘progressive and proactive.’ States that have already restored local control of smoke free air include Louisiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, Iowa, Nevada and Oregon; and I’m hoping this resolution will be the first step to include Florida on that list.
“We all know how dangerous secondhand smoke is and that it kills about 443,000 Americans every year. When somebody is smoking on their terrace they are [virtually] smoking in your apartment, which is a health hazard to you and your environment and can cause illness. On a personal note, I will be 67 next week and [passing] this resolution is the best birthday gift I can get – plus the gift from my oncologist who gave me thumbs up for being four years cancer-free.”
Commissioner Jeanette Gatto stated, “This resolution was initiated by [Arlene Koenig] who has experienced secondhand smoke floating into her unit and it generated a bigger conversation about multi-unit dwellings where we all share space. Whether we like it or not, in condos we’re inherently sharing air space and common areas so it’s very difficult to dodge cigarette smoke – especially secondhand smoke, which is documented to be very dangerous to your health.
“This [resolution] urges the Florida Legislature to amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit smoking in all common areas – the pool area, parking garages, patios and balconies. There are a lot of situations where smoke is drifting into other units. We’re going to press hard for this and urge our legislators to [address] this because we think it’s extremely important given the fact that secondhand smoke is toxic and dangerous “
Commissioner Isaac Aelion pointed out, “As president of a condo building, I get a lot of complaints from residents who live above smokers units and indeed [the smoke] rises. I’ve experienced firsthand when an individual smokes on a [highrise] balcony, automatically, the smoke goes to the upper balcony and inside [a unit] if the sliding doors are open, so it is very appropriate that this resolution is being brought before us.” Gatto added, “I [also personally] have a situation where I have a bedroom that is five feet away from my neighbor’s balcony and [the cigarette smoke] is drifting sideways so it really is impossible to control because it’s dictated by where the wind is blowing.”
ALARMING STATISTICS According to the Center for Disease Control, tobacco use – including cigarettes and various forms of smokeless tobacco – have led to more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, motor vehicle accidents and acts of violence combined. The CDC also reports that breathing in secondhand smoke has an instant effect on a person’s cardiovascular system. Even a slight exposure can damage blood vessels and cause blood platelets to become sticker. Over time, these changes can result in heart disease and heart attacks.
People regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20 to 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer than those who are not exposed as often. Secondhand smoke refers not only to the smoke that wafts from the end of a burning cigarette, but also the smoke that is breathed out by the smoker.
Multi-unit housing structures such as condominiums where smoking is allowed is a special concern and subject of research. According to the Florida Department of Health, secondhand smoke can seep through lighting fixtures, cracks in walls, around plumbing, under doors, through shared ventilation, as well as permeate building materials, and then enter adjoining units. Secondhand smoke cannot be controlled with ventilation, air cleaning or by separating smokers from non smokers.
Many U.S. local and state governments have decided that protecting the health of people in public places is of the utmost importance. Many have passed clean indoor air laws. Although the laws vary from place to place, they are becoming more common. According to the New York Sun, secondhand smoke is overtaking noise as one of the most common complaints coming before condo boards.
Locally, as of Jan.1, 2012, Aventura Hospital and Medical Center became a “tobacco-free” campus. No smoking or tobacco use is permitted inside the main hospital garages the Cancer Center, or anywhere on the hospital campus including surrounding medical buildings.
PROTECTING YOUTHS During the Feb. 16 City Commission meeting, the issue of candy flavored tobacco being marketed to young people was also addressed. Koenig introduced youths involved with the Students Working Against Tobacco for Miami-Dade initiative aligned with the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free work group.
Koenig and the students explained, “We’re very concerned about the issue of candy flavored tobacco. It targets new users – the majority of which are kids. Studies show that 17-year-old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes as smokers over the age of 25. Almost 90 percent of adult smokers began smoking as teenagers…We want to prevent youths from beginning to use these cancer causing products by getting them off the shelves.
“This policy is not aimed at the few adults using these products who can easily switch to other products – but at protecting our youth. Some facts: Twenty percent of smokers ages 17-19 smoked flavored cigarettes while only six percent of smokers over the age of 25 reported smoking flavored cigarettes.
“Eighty percent of smokers started before the age of 18. This ban will help stop the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily. We would like to ask [the Sunny Isles Beach City Commission] to pass a policy [related to] taking these products off the shelves and protecting our youths.”
In response, Mayor Norman Edelcup said the issue concerning tobacco targeting youths would be considered at a future Commission meeting. Explaining the process, City Manager Alan Cohen said, “When [proposed] legislation is brought before the Commission it takes some time to develop. City staff has to write it – and the City Attorney has to review it. The legislative process is a deliberative one that does take some time…So this will go through the channels and hopefully come before the Commission at some point.”