The Los Angeles City Council, which pioneered smoking bans by prohibiting people from lighting up in restaurants, theaters and workplaces, was urged Wednesday by a group of health activists to ban smoking in half of the new affordable apartment buildings subsidized by the city.
With the city launching an effort to provide $100 million a year to subsidize the construction of affordable housing, council members assured representatives of the Task Force for Smoke Free Housing that they would hold a hearing on the proposal next month.
"A person who smokes can live in the building. It's just that they don't smoke in the building, in the same way we have smokers who eat in our restaurants. They just don't smoke there," said Esther Schiller, executive director of Smokefree Air For Everyone.
Schiller was one of six activists to urge adoption of the policy during a meeting Wednesday by the council's Housing and Community Development Committee. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, chairwoman of the panel, told the group she would schedule a hearing for next month.
Schiller said that about 60,000 people die each year in the United States from the effects of secondhand smoke.
"Citizens of California deserve to exist in safe and healthy environments free from lethal toxic or harmful substances putting their health in jeopardy," said Steven Gallegos, a representative of the local chapter of the American Heart Assn.
Under the proposal made by the activists, the city would award housing trust funds to affordable apartment projects based on the requirement that there be an equal number of units that allow smoking and that do not allow smoking.
The city already prohibits some substances in housing such as lead-based paint, said Marisol Romero, executive director of the Hispanic/Latino Tobacco Education Network.
"Smoke-free buildings are not about evicting people who are smokers," Romero said. "Smoke-free buildings really are about giving people options, and letting people know in advance that if they plan to live in a certain building that this building is smoke-free."