I am very disappointed to see that all jurisdictions in Napa County received an F or a D in the 2019 State of Tobacco Control Local Grades Report (lung.org).

Each year, the American Lung Association tracks progress on key tobacco control policies and assigns grades to each city and county in three areas: smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing, and reducing sales of tobacco products. For example, all cities in Napa County received an F for smoke-free housing – as they have for all the years these reports have been published – because they have made no effort to make apartments, condominiums, or common spaces smoke-free.

I am very concerned about this issue because research clearly demonstrates that secondhand (and thirdhand) smoke is dangerous for everyone, but particularly for children, the elderly, and individuals impacted by medical conditions and disabilities. According to the Surgeon General, exposure to secondhand smoke may give as many as 300,000 children under the age of 18 months bronchitis and pneumonia.

For residents of multi-unit housing (e.g., apartment buildings and condominiums), secondhand smoke migrates from other units and common areas and travels through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation systems. The effects of secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing disproportionately impact lower-income families and children.

You may say, “but I should be able to smoke in my own home” and my response is “not if your choice can make my child sick.”

You may say, “then just move” and my response may be “but I can’t afford to move.”

Our cities have an obligation to protect all children, including – and I would argue, especially – children in families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing almost half a million Americans each year and costing more than $289 billion in healthcare. Local data shows an increase in youth use of new electronic smoking devices. Making multi-unit housing smoke free is a public health decision that could improve the health of everyone – pregnant moms, children, teens, adults, and the elderly.

I am a parent of two young kids and a member of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Napa. We want to encourage local city councils and the Napa County Board of Supervisors to join our neighboring cities and counties (e.g., Petaluma, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Novato, San Rafael) and pass strong smoke-free multi-unit housing ordinances that will protect families where they live. We applaud elected officials in the cities and county who have demonstrated leadership in the fight against tobacco.

Anne Sutkowi-Hemstreet


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