March, 2012


All my leases prohibit indoor smoking. Why? Well, it is not because I am trying to enforce my morality on my tenants, although I have had tenants who believed that. I don't smoke myself, but I really don't care if other people do.

I used to allow smoking in my apartments, but my policy changed about 10 years ago as a result of an expensive experience. I rented a small cottage to a man who smoked a pack of cigarettes every day. He lived in that cottage for 8 years, and in all that time, he never once opened a window or left the door ajar to air the place out. When he moved out, it cost me over $6,000 to clean and deodorize the cottage. The walls were brown and sticky and smelled like cigarette smoke. If you touched the walls, this sticky stuff came off on your fingers and then your fingers smelled like cigarette smoke. This brown stuff would not wash off the walls, and it bled through the new paint. I had to have the cottage painted a second time with tobacco stain sealer and then painted yet a third time. The carpet also smelled like cigarette smoke. I had the carpet shampooed twice, but the odor kept coming back, so I had to replace the carpet and the pad. I also had to replace the venetian blinds, and I had to have every inch of the kitchen cabinets, appliances, and woodwork scrubbed down and deodorized. After that experience, I started putting 'no smoking' clauses in all my leases. As I said, I don't care if other people smoke, but I do care if other people's smoking costs me a lot of money.

When prospective tenants look over a vacant apartment, they expect it to smell smoke-free. If an apartment smells like cigarette smoke, people will just walk out. Things were very different when I became a landlord 40 years ago. In those days, nobody complained if an apartment smelled like cigarette smoke. Half of all adult Americans smoked, and people smoked everywhere. In 1968, I worked in the billing office at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City. Sloan-Kettering is a large and famous cancer hospital, and yet even there, the employees, including the doctors and nurses, smoked. The gift shop made half its income from cigarette sales - and remember - this was a cancer hospital. Sounds unbelievable, doesn't it? When I was in college, the #1 rated prime-time animated television show in the U.S. was 'The Flintstones.' The show's principal sponsor was Winston cigarettes. During the commercial breaks, Fred Flintstone, his wife Wilma, and his neighbor Barney Rubble smoked Winston cigarettes and reminded the kiddies watching the show that 'Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.' Here's a little video clip: The Flinstones Smoke Winston.

$15.00 A PACK?

Do you know how much cigarettes cost in New York City? It's incredible! Here are some current prices at locations in mid-town Manhattan. At a kiosk near Penn Station, Marlboros cost $14.50 a pack, including tax. A few blocks away, at a discount store across the street from Macy's, they are $12.25. At Smiler's Deli on Fifth Avenue, they are $14.00 a pack. I can remember when cigarettes cost 27 cents a pack. I remember the price because my mother occasionally bought Lucky Strikes, even though she was not a smoker. My mother was a schoolteacher, and smoking was allowed in the teacher's lounge at her school. My mother said that if she was the only person in a crowded room who wasn't smoking, it made her feel self-conscious. When that happened, she would light up a cigarette and just hold it in her fingers. A lot of non-smokers did that back in those days.


  • In 1900, cigarettes were illegal in some states, including Washington, Tennessee, North Dakota, and Iowa. In many states, including New York, only men were allowed to smoke. Women caught smoking cigarettes were subject to arrest. Many women were arrested and sent to jail. On the other hand, the sale of cocaine, opiates, and marijuana was legal everywhere.
  • In 1945, cigarettes were the unofficial but de facto currency of central Europe after World War 2. In Germany, grocers priced food in cigarettes, and landlords made tenants pay their rent with cigarettes.
  • Between 1947 and 1949, the U.S. government gave Germany 200,000,000 free cigarettes under the Marshall Plan, and we gave Great Britain 100,000 tons of free tobacco. In England; bread, sugar, and meat were rationed until 1948 and were often unavailable even if you had ration coupons; however, cigarettes were not subject to post-war rationing. You could buy all the cigarettes you wanted.

    I have been meaning to write about this subject for a long time. Contrary to what most people think, there is relatively little caffeine in most chocolate products. I know parents who won't let their children eat chocolate because they say that the caffeine in chocolate makes their kids go nuts, but these same people will let their kids drink a can of soda that contains 5 times as much caffeine as a Hershey bar. Below is a list of some popular products showing the amount of caffeine in milligrams (mg) in each one.

    Coca Cola Classic. 12 ounce can. 35 mg
    Diet Coke. 12 ounce can. 45 mg
    Dr. Pepper. 12 ounce can. 41 mg
    Lipton ice tea. 20 ounce bottle. 50 mg
    Mountain Dew. 12 ounce can. 54 mg
    Rockstar Zero Carb. 16 ounce can. 240 mg
    McDonald's regular coffee (small). 12 ounce cup. 109 mg
    Dunkin' Donuts regular coffee. 16 ounce cup. 206 mg
    Starbucks regular coffee. 16 ounce cup. 320 mg

    Now compare those products with these chocolate products:
    Hershey's milk chocolate bar. 1.55 ounces. 9 mg
    M&Ms. 1.45 ounce bag. 6 mg
    Kit Kat bar. 1.5 ounces. 6 mg
    Rolo caramels in milk chocolate. 1.5 ounces. 3 mg
    Reese's peanut butter cups. 2 cup package. 1.45 ounces. 5 mg
    Hershey's chocolate milk. 8 ounces. 5 mg

    How much caffeine is too much? The Mayo Clinic defines heavy adult caffeine consumption as 500 mg or more of caffeine per day. Symptoms of caffeine overdosing include nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, irritability, upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, and muscle tremors.

    DUBIOUS FREEBIES. When a landlord lists an apartment for rent on Craigslist, he tries to make his place look as desirable as possible. Every landlord touts his apartment's amenities, and most rental ads on Craigslist are honest and straightforward about this. But what does a landlord do if his apartment doesn't have any amenities? What if the place is a dog, nobody wants to rent it, and it has been sitting vacant for a long time? In that case, the landlord may embellish the truth and list things that sound like desirable features, but that really aren't. Here are some dubious amenities that I've culled from Craigslist rental ads.

    Free ambient parking. This means that you have to park your car on the street. There is no parking on the premises. Ambient means nearby, not on-site.
    Ambient laundry facilities. This means that there is a laundromat somewhere in the neighborhood. There is no laundry room at the property.
    Ambient recreational facilities. This means that there is a public park or school playground in the neighborhood. I am always suspicious of the word 'ambient.'
    Plentiful off-street parking. 'Plentiful' does not mean 'free.' Some apartment houses in downtown Berkeley charge over $200 a month for parking. That's why their parking is 'plentiful.'
    Cable ready. Most apartments in Berkeley are cable-ready. If a previous tenant had cable, then a cable connection is already there. If there is no cable connection, Comcast will install one when you order service.
    Light filled bedroom. This means that there is a window in the bedroom. Well so what? By state law, every bedroom has to have a window. Because rents in this area are so high, some people use rooms without windows as bedrooms, but that is illegal and unhealthy.
    Could be 2 bedrooms. I see this line in Craigslist ads quite often. In rental listings, 'could be' means 'not'; therefore, 'could be 2 bedrooms' means that the apartment does not have 2 bedrooms. It has one bedroom plus a living room that is big enough to put a bed in it.
    Secure bicycle storage area. This does not mean the same thing as 'secure indoor bicycle storage area.' A locked back yard is a secure area, but when it rains, your bicycle gets wet.
    Quiet neighborhood. In Berkeley, this could mean that the apartment is located in the city's industrial district, where it is surrounded by factories, warehouses, and vacant lots. Yes, that area is quiet at night, but few people want to live there. In El Cerrito, 'quiet neighborhood' can mean that the building is next to Sunset View Cemetery. Admittedly, those neighbors are quiet.
    Near shopping. Shopping for what? There is an apartment house in south Berkeley that advertises that it is 'near shopping,' by which they mean that it is next door to a notorious liquor store where there have been numerous armed robberies and drug busts.
    Campus shuttle. This one is my favorite! The term 'campus shuttle' implies that an apartment house has a shuttle van that whisks students to campus; however, I don't know a single Berkeley landlord who owns a shuttle van. 'Campus shuttle' means is that an apartment house is located near an AC Transit bus stop where you can get a bus that goes to campus.

    New In The Chocolate Room

    Hamantashsen. I've got handmade raspberry and apricot hamantashen bottom-coated in dark and milk chocolate. This is a seasonal item and will be available for only a few weeks.

    Mark Tarses

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