Multi Unit Non Smoking Policy

The City of Milpitas received a grant from Santa Clara County to develop and implement a comprehensive no-smoking policy for all multi-unit housing.

Milpitas already prohibits smoking and vaping in parks, trails, and outdoor dining areas, but policies are needed to prohibit smoking in multi-unit housing and limit exposure to secondhand smoke and vaping in individual units, common areas entryways and service areas in nonresidential developments, and at public events. Milpitas has adopted policies to address the increased demand for smoke free housing to protect current and future residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke from both tobacco and cannabis products, which often disproportionately jeopardize the health of the most vulnerable populations.

Property owners, managers, and HOAs must inform tenants and residents of the law’s smoke-free requirements and incorporate the requirements into leases and rental agreements. Signs must also be posted where smoking is prohibited. The City has a limited number of free “no smoking” signs available. If you would like to pick up a “no smoking” sign, please contact the Planning Department.

Ordinance No. 227.8, which expands the areas in Milpitas where smoking is prohibited, can be found here. The City Council agenda report and attachments, which provide additional background and information regarding the project, can be accessed here.

Frequent and recurring exposure to secondhand smoke can cause health problems such as asthma, heart disease, cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as well as worsen a chronic illness. Children, the elderly, and the disabled are especially vulnerable to exposure to secondhand smoke, yet they are the least able to avoid it.

The home is now the number one source of secondhand smoke exposure and 20% of Milpitas households live in multi-unit housing. Therefore, the most effective way to address secondhand smoke exposure is to implement citywide policies that restrict smoking in all multi-unit housing, including common areas, balconies, and patios. There are now over 50 jurisdictions in California that have adopted smoke-free housing policies, including unincorporated Santa Clara County, and the cities of Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Palo Alto and Los Gatos. For more information regarding the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and benefits of smoke-free policies, refer to this informational handout.

The City was selected to receive funding to implement comprehensive smoke-free policies for all multi-unit housing through Santa Clara County’s Healthy Cities Program. In March 2020, the Milpitas City Council authorized City staff to conduct public outreach, develop policy options to prohibit smoking in multi-unit housing, and prepare an implementation plan for future consideration and adoption. On June 15, 2021, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 227.8 to prohibit smoking in multi-unit housing and certain outdoor areas. The City Council agenda report and attachments, which provide additional background and information regarding the project, can be accessed here.

Why is Milpitas considering smoke free strategies?

First, the harmful effects of secondhand smoke are severe and widespread. Secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 41,000 heart disease-related and lung cancer deaths each year. Furthermore, the U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and the California Air Resources Board has classified secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites, and public places. However, 29% of Santa Clara County residents report smelling tobacco smoke drifting into their home from nearby apartments or from the outside.

Second, multiple county surveys show an increased demand for smoke-free housing in Santa Clara County. 96% of Santa Clara County apartment residents believe that smokers should not be allowed to smoke wherever they want and 84% said they would support a no smoking policy at their multi-unit housing complex. Several jurisdictions within Santa Clara County have already adopted smoke-free policies for multi-unit housing and most other jurisdictions prohibit smoking in entryways and service areas of nonresidential developments and at public events.

What is multi-unit housing?

Multi-unit housing is any housing development with two or more units (e.g., duplexes, fourplexes, townhomes, condos, apartments, etc.).

What smoking products does this policy apply to?

This policy will apply to the smoking and vaping of all tobacco and cannabis-related products. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.

What’s next?

City staff will work with the County consultant to develop an implementation plan and informational materials to help residents and the owners/managers of multi-family properties understand and implement the new policy. Outreach materials will include new content on the City’s website, smoke-free signage, fact sheets, and a landlord toolkit designed to build support and increase public awareness of the new requirements.

What are other cities doing?

In Santa Clara County, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and the unincorporated area require multi-unit housing to be smoke free. Refer to this table for a comparison of smoke-free policies across Santa Clara County jurisdictions. Additionally, the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County prohibits smoking at all of its properties. In San Mateo County, Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Mateo, South San Francisco and the unincorporated area require multi-unit housing to be smoke free. Statewide, 63 local jurisdictions have adopted smoke free multi-unit housing laws that are considered “strong” by the American Lung Association. Most of these laws require 100% of new and existing housing units to be smoke free.

What about policies for retail tobacco businesses?

The focus of this effort is to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing and other public areas within Milpitas. However, as part of a separate effort, City staff from Planning and Recreation Services is developing a licensing program for tobacco retailers and conducting additional community outreach to educate youth, teens, and parents about the health hazards of smoking and vaping. Staff is also coordinating with the County consultant to develop regulations aimed at restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products to teens and discouraging the overall use of all tobacco products.

If you have a comment or question about this project, please contact the staff project manager Jay Lee.

Jay Lee, AICP Principal Planner