Smoking issue will linger for a while

The show-and-tell at the City Council meeting this week regarding second-hand smoke in apartment buildings was just a taste of what has surely been a long-running but prickly problem in Glendale — regulating what people do in their own homes.

In terms of restricting smoking in public, Glendale has been at the forefront, imposing rules against lighting up in most places where people congregate. In a city known for its smoking population, it was a taxing conversation, but the rules were implemented and the city hasn’t fallen apart. With that largely taken care of, there’s the thorny issue of second-hand smoke in multi-unit residential buildings, where criticism of “nanny state” and “government intrusion” has a louder echo.

On Tuesday, there was no shortage of apartment dwellers before the City Council bringing their horror stories of second-hand smoke emanating from their neighbor’s unit. There were tears, pleas for help and one woman claiming she wears a hospital mask in her apartment to combat the smoke.

As Councilman Dave Weaver said: “How come we can’t help these people? They’re trapped.”

But in a way, so is the city. There are proposals on the table to force all new apartment units built in the city to be smoke-free — an option that, while fair and easy, would have the smallest impact — or to cordon off smoking units from non-smoking (much like a hotel). That also carries a heavy burden for building owners and residents who may have to move, even if the city sets a compliance deadline years off.

And even then, there are few code enforcement officials to make sure residents and landlords are following the rules.

It’s a tough spot that will no doubt take a while longer to solve, but at least the City Council is at long last addressing a problem that no doubt affects more people more often. In public, non-smokers have the mobility to avoid second-hand smoke. But when it comes to their homes — and the desire to keep some neighborly peace — that ability is severely diminished.

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