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National City missing chance to take the lead Veronica Baeza | Sat, Dec 24 2011 12:00 PM

As a South Bay community resident and mother of a small child, I am concerned for residents who are exposed to secondhand smoke in their home
The city of National City has the opportunity to protect and improve the lives of hundreds of these residents by enacting an ordinance prohibiting smoking in multi-unit housing (apartments and condominiums).
The city, however, appears to be dragging its feet despite testimony from residents in favor of such an ordinance, the work of a community task force formed January 2010 to make recommendations on the issue, and the mounting research showing that exposure to secondhand smoke kills non-smokers.
Perhaps the city needs to be reminded that protecting the majority of their residents from secondhand smoke is not a political act, but rather an act in the interest of public health. Or perhaps the city simply needs to be convinced why they should move forward with such an ordinance.
An estimated 4,560 to 7,800 non-smokers die each year in California from lung cancer or heart disease associated with their exposure to secondhand smoke. Children have especially sensitive respiratory systems. They are more vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke. They develop ear infections, colds, asthma, bronchitis, and other ailments. The developing lungs of a child are more susceptible to the damage caused by the toxins in secondhand smoke. Seniors with chronic diseases such as heart and lung disease, diabetes, and cancer are at risk of worsening their condition. Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase their chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board have declared secondhand smoke a toxic air contaminant—it contains over 250 toxic chemicals of which 50 are known to cause cancer. These agencies also warn there is no safe level of exposure—breathing even a little is harmful.
Smokefree Housing Policies have already been adopted in 55 California communities. These policies protect Californians living in multi-unit housing who are breathing secondhand smoke which drifts from neighboring units, balconies and outdoor areas. The list can be found at www.center4tobaccopolicy.org.
After two years of reviewing the issue and drafting an ordinance seven months ago. The city of National City has so far failed to protect residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. Having already earned an overall grade of D in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control Report Card released in January 2011, it appears National City can expect the same grade in January 2012.
National City stands to be a leader in the region and county by providing the protection residents in multi-unit housing need from secondhand smoke. The City had been at the forefront of adopting policies to protect residents from secondhand smoke and promote healthy environments with smoke-free parks, a smoke-free port, and most recently smoke-free outdoor dining patios; yet the issue of smoke-free multi-unit housing still remains largely unaddressed by the current city council. Public health can’t wait and the City of National City needs to take action—now!

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