80% of LA Tenants Not Protected From Secondhand Smoke Despite Overwhelming Support

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According to two new studies from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, eight out of every ten Los Angeles apartment tenants live in units that do not protect them from secondhand smoke, despite the fact that 82% of people support smoke-free policies in their buildings.

As reported by UCLA Newsroom, the research was released at the same time as a new initiative to decrease secondhand smoke in such multi-unit apartment buildings had started as well.

The studies based their findings on approximately 1,000 door-to-door interviews the researchers did themselves, as well as reports submitted to UCLA by 93 owners of apartment buildings, who collectively represented more than 5,400 units.

“Our findings send a strong message to property owners that renters want healthy, smoke-free homes,” said Ying-Ying Meng, the lead author of both studies and co-director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research’s Chronic Disease Program. “Tenants want clean air in their homes and common areas. Landlords recognize that it literally pays to be smoke free due to the extra expense and liability of permitting smoking.”

One interesting thing to note is that even the majority of current smokers seem to be in favor of new regulations on smoking in buildings. About 85% of smokers reported supporting these kind of policies, while 55% of landlords were in support.

The reasons landlords gave for supporting are fairly obvious and include the value of creating a healthy environment, lowering maintenance costs and increasing their properties’ marketability. Landlords who run buildings with these sort of policies in place unanimously agreed that such legislation has had no negative effect on vacancy rates.

One of the reasons many landlords have neglected to change policies to reflect the interests of their tenants comes down to simple ignorance. In fact, a majority of landlords either had never thought about the issue or weren’t aware that they could implement their own smoking policy, according to the study.

Proper maintenance is, of course, a huge part of retaining value in real estate. Homeowners will typically spend between 1 and 4% of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, and for landlords, sometimes that money goes towards eliminating the damage done by regular smoke.

“Landlords understand how expensive it can be to have someone smoke in one of their units,” said Joe Patel, president of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, the city’s largest organization representing owners and managers. “It can cost up to $15,000 to renovate a smoker’s unit, not including the immense health costs of secondhand smoke and the potential for liability if a neighbor gets sick. Unfortunately, this reality has yet to translate into smoke-free policies due to a lack of awareness. Our new campaign is going to change that.”

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