Secondhand Blues

My neighbour across the hall smokes like a chimney. The smoke wafts out into the hallway, stinking it up and on particularly heavy days, creating a wall of blue. It also seeps under my door and into my suite. Since the balconies have been torn off, she’s taken to smoking on the back steps, where the smoke curls up and in through my patio door. My only source of ventilation.

I have spoken to her about it, but of course, she owns her suite. She’s entitled to smoke in her suite. Or so she thinks. I found a great on-line resource called The Smoker Next Door, which gives some great tips and information on handling secondhand smoke in multi-family residences. Here’s a pretty important paragraph:

The biggest hurdle to resolving disputes about drifting secondhand smoke is misinformation. Your landlord, management company, or owner’s association may be unaware that it is perfectly legal to require that an apartment building or condominium be smokefree. This can include private units, as well as outdoor areas such as patios and balconies. People often mistakenly believe that there is a legally protected “right to smoke” or that a smokefree building policy would discriminate against smokers. However, there is no such legal right to smoke, and people who smoke are not a protected class. The courts have held that protection of nonsmokers against the hazards of secondhand smoke takes precedence over smokers’ desire to light up wherever they choose.

My neighbour is polluting the surrounding environment with her habit and endangering the lives of the rest of us in this building. The smoke from the burning end of a cigarette or pipe or cigar, contains over 4,000 substances, several of which are carcinogens. The Environmental Protection Agency in the US reviewed more than 30 studies and concluded that secondhand smoke is indeed a carcinogen, in the same class as asbestos and benzene – and that it causes 3000 deaths a year in non-smokers! Health Canada has similar information on their website. The smoke also increases the chances of asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia in kids and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

We have children in our building, along with non-smoking adults and animals, but the strata has so far refused to impose a no-smoking bylaw. In the US, where folks tend to take legal action as a first resort, things turn around quickly at the first whiff of a lawsuit. As a Canadian, I have employed the diplomatic and educational route. Talking to residents and the smoking parties, posting notices on bulletin boards. I have suggested to the strata that they at least put a ban on renting to smokers. So far they are just blowing me off.

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