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valerie yerger pic Richmond’s Smoking Ban: Ensuring Impact

Dr. Valerie Yerger at the University of California, San Francisco received a TRDRP grant to evaluate a new citywide ordinance that bans smoking in multi-unit housing in Richmond, California.

California has made significant progress in reducing people’s exposure to tobacco smoke when they are in public places. However, individuals can spend as much as 90% of their time indoors, with 65% of this time inside their homes. Those who are homebound, such as the elderly and disabled, and who suffer from heart or respiratory diseases are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke if they live in multi-unit housing and have neighbors who smoke. Secondhand smoke, a by-product of cigarette smoking that can cause cancer in humans, seeps under doorways and through wall cracks. Children who live with people who smoke in the home are 44% more likely to suffer from asthma than those children who live in homes with clean air.

Effective January 1, 2011, it is illegal to smoke inside Richmond's multi-unit residences, within the private areas of those residences (including balconies, patios, and decks), and in the common areas of multi-unit housing (Read Richmond’s new law). Any tenant who breaks the law, or knowingly allows another person to do so, will be legally responsible to the property owner, the homeowner’s association, and any occupant exposed to secondhand smoke resulting from the illegal smoking. Tobacco control advocates nationwide have recognized the importance of this innovative policy and this TRDRP award provides a unique opportunity to investigate the implementation process and to understand and address any critical barriers.

cityrichmondThe project will first assess knowledge of Richmond’s smokefree multi-unit housing ordinance among multi-unit housing residents, property owners, homeowners’ associations and other stakeholders, and elicit their suggestions for improving understanding and acceptance of the ordinance by the community. It will then evaluate the levels of implementation of the policy by the City of Richmond (including promulgation, enforcement, and adjudication), with the aim of identifying specific ways in which implementation can be improved. Finally, based on findings from the first two phases, the investigators will develop a community-level, user-friendly intervention that serves to inform the community about the policy and to bolster stakeholder ability to carry out each step of implementation, in order to ensure that the stated policy goals are met.

Given that smokefree policies in multi-unit housing is a significant new area of interest in tobacco control, it is important to understand how community residents and other stakeholders adopt and carry out these policies. The study offers a unique opportunity to conduct an in-depth case study of how best to implement such a policy. The overall goal of this project is to ensure the adoption and citywide implementation of this new and innovative policy. Results generated from this study could inform other communities in California and beyond as to how they might successfully adopt and implement similar policies.