2020

Study finds overwhelming support for smoke-free policies among L.A. tenants, landlords


Exposure to secondhand smoke poses serious health risks to tenants in densely populated housing.

cartoon graphic of a man smoking out of a window and another man reading a book

Half of apartment dwellers in Los Angeles report having been exposed to unwanted secondhand smoke in their homes in the last year, and 9 in 10 of them say they favor policies banning smoking from their buildings, a new study by researchers at the Fielding School of Public Health's UCLA Center for Health Policy Research reveals.

Owners of multiunit housing properties in Los Angeles also expressed strong support, with 92% saying they favor smoke-free policies, according to the study, which surveyed more than 5,000 tenants and owners in some of the city’s most densely populated areas. The study's leaders include Naderah Pourat, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor-in-residence of health policy and management and associate director of the Center for Health Policy Research.

“We found that 1 in 2 tenants said that they were exposed to secondhand smoke and that there is a need to reduce that exposure in order to protect all tenants and children from harmful health effects,” said Peggy Toy, director of the Health DATA Program at the Center for Health Policy Research and lead author of the study.

Currently, that protection is hard to come by. There is no citywide policy in Los Angeles prohibiting tenants from smoking in privately owned apartments and condominiums. And in Los Angeles County, roughly 80% of cities allow smoking in these units. Around 80 million Americans live in multiunit housing and can be exposed to smoke in their homes.

The danger of exposure to secondhand smoke is well-documented. While tenants who smoke may believe they pose no threat to others, secondhand smoke from tobacco, marijuana and e-cigarettes can drift into other units through shared ventilation systems, walls, windows and common areas, endangering other tenants. Drifting secondhand smoke cannot be controlled and has been linked to over 40,000 annual deaths from heart disease and lung cancer combined, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For the study, nearly 5,000 survey responses were collected from household tenants in 12 Los Angeles City Council districts, with help from community partners who conducted surveys in English, Spanish and Korean. Approximately 200 surveys were conducted online and over the phone with private owners of multiunit buildings. The surveys covered topics such as tenants’ experiences with secondhand smoke in their homes, tenants’ and owners’ views on smoke-free policies, and the potential challenges of enforcing these policies.

In addition to widespread support for smoking restrictions, the study found higher-than-average rates of secondhand smoke exposure among vulnerable and minority tenants:

  • 55% of tenants who live with someone with chronic a disease reported they had been exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes in the past year.
  • 54% of tenants with children reported exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • 54% of Latino tenants and 51% of black tenants said they had been exposed — more than any other races or ethnicities.

Private owners of multiunit buildings in Los Angeles have the authority to institute smoke-free policies, and many have. The study found that 3 in 5 tenants live in buildings with some form of smoking ban, whether in common areas or individual units. But these policies can be difficult to implement. If a tenant who smokes rented a unit before a smoke-free policy was in place, the owner cannot force them to stop. In the absence of a citywide prohibition, many landlords can only ask tenants to voluntarily refrain from smoking.

“We found that owners implemented voluntary smoke-free policies and supported them due to reasons like decreased maintenance costs and tenant health,” Toy said. “We found owners supportive of a citywide policy but concerned over accountability and enforcement that would hold owners liable if tenants violated the policy.”

The study’s authors recommend policies to protect all residents from the health risks of secondhand smoke in their homes. These include establishing a single smoke-free policy requiring all multiunit housing properties in the city of Los Angeles to be 100% smoke-free to protect all tenants; identifying a policy-enforcement model that meets the needs of both tenants and owners; engaging and mobilizing community partners to ensure effective enforcement; and promoting access to resources that help people quit smoking in order to aid the compliance and enforcement processes.

“As more people are spending time at home due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that tenants feel safe about their surroundings and protected from exposure to unwanted environmental risks like secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Tony Kuo, director of the division of chronic disease and injury prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “We are hopeful that multiunit housing owners, tenants and community stakeholders can come to a solution that protects our communities from this danger in their homes.”

By Elaiza Torralba

Faculty Referenced by this Article

Nadereh Pourat
Nadereh Pourat
Health Policy and Management
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Tony Kuo
Tony Kuo
Epidemiology
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James Macinko
James Macinko

Professor of Community Health Sciences & Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Research

Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Jonathan Fielding
Jonathan Fielding
Health Policy and Management
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Laura Erskine
Laura Erskine
Health Policy and Management
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Gerald Kominski
Gerald Kominski
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Thomas Rice
Thomas Rice
Health Policy and Management
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Emily Abel
Emily Abel
Health Policy and Management
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Olivia Jung
Olivia Jung
Health Policy and Management
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Arlene Fink
Health Policy and Management
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Galper, Michael
Michael Galper
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Beth Glenn
Beth Glenn
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Anthony Schiff
Anthony Hunter Schiff
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Kristen Choi
Kristen Choi
Health Policy and Management
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Thomas Priselac
Health Policy and Management
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Jean Balgrosky
Health Policy and Management
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William J. McCarthy
Health Policy and Management
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Jose J. Escarce
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Samuel Sessions
Samuel Sessions
Health Policy and Management
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Julie A. Elginer

EMPH Academic Program Director with expertise in healthcare marketing, finance, and reproductive health policy, teaching in the EMPH, MPH, MHA program

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Robert Kaplan
Robert Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Jennifer Wortham
Jennifer Wortham
Health Policy and Management
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Clifford Ko
Clifford Ko
Health Policy and Management
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Jody Heymann
Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
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Rosenstock
Linda Rosenstock
Environmental Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Yusuke Tsugawa
Yusuke Tsugawa
Health Policy and Management
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Sandra Aronberg
Health Policy and Management
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Diana Hilberman
Diana Hilberman
Health Policy and Management
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Mangione, C
Carol Mangione
Health Policy and Management
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Arturo Vargas Bustamante
Health Policy and Management
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Yvonne Flores
Health Policy and Management
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Z. John Lu
Health Policy and Management
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Susan Ettner
Health Policy and Management
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Annette Maxwell
Health Policy and Management
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Barbara Berman
Health Policy and Management
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Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Health Policy and Management
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Ty Robbins
Health Policy and Management
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Steven Teutsch
Health Policy and Management
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Joann G. Elmore
Health Policy and Management
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Vickie Mays
Vickie Mays
Health Policy and Management
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Emmeline Chuang
Health Policy and Management
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Warren Scott Comulada
Warren Scott Comulada
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Felicia Hodge
Felicia Hodge
Health Policy and Management
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Corrina Moucheraud
Corrina Moucheraud
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Daniel Eisenberg
Daniel Eisenberg
Health Policy and Management
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David Hayes-Bautista
Health Policy and Management
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Burt Cowgill
Burt Cowgill
Health Policy and Management
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Patricia Ganz
Patricia Ganz
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Lillian Gelberg
Lillian Gelberg
Health Policy and Management
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Comanor, Bill
William Comanor
Health Policy and Management
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Kadiyala, Srikanth
Srikanth Kadiyala
Health Policy and Management
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Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Ninez Ponce
Ninez Ponce
Health Policy and Management
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Thomas D. Gordon
Health Policy and Management
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Neal Halfon
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Naomi Zewde
Naomi Zewde
Health Policy and Management
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Brennan Spiegel
Health Policy and Management
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Mark Litwin
Health Policy and Management
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Dylan Roby
Health Policy and Management
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Jeanne Miranda
Jeanne Miranda
Health Policy and Management
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Moira Inkelas
Moira Inkelas
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Stephanie Taylor
Stephanie L. Taylor

Nationally recognized health services researcher and sociomedical scientist with 25+ years' experience in effectiveness and implementation research.

Health Policy and Management
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Michelle Keller
Michelle S. Keller

Dr. Michelle S. Keller is a health services researcher whose research focuses on the use and prescribing of high-risk medications.

Health Policy and Management
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Paul Fu, Jr.
Health Policy and Management
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Isomi Miake-Lye
Isomi Miake-Lye
Health Policy and Management
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Roshan Bastani
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Xi Zhu
Xi Zhu
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Frederick Zimmerman
Frederick Zimmerman
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Alice Kuo
Alice Kuo
Health Policy and Management
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Avram Kaplan
Avram Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
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Jack Needleman
Jack Needleman
Health Policy and Management
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Lori Pelliccioni
Health Policy and Management
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Alan Tomines
Health Policy and Management
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Michael Ong
Michael Ong
Health Policy and Management
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Leah Vriesman
Leah Vriesman
Health Policy and Management
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Robert Brook
Health Policy and Management
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Freund, Deborah
Deborah Anne Freund
Health Policy and Management
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Kenneth Wells
Health Policy and Management
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Paul Chung
Paul Chung
Health Policy and Management
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Ron D. Hays
Ron D. Hays

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Health Policy and Management
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Aria Fallah
Health Policy and Management
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Ron Andersen

Dr. Ron Andersen is the Wasserman Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Departments of Health Policy and Management.

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