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Smoke-Free Housing – Healthy, Legal, and In Demand

Sep 24, 2014
While provincial laws provide Ontario residents with extensive protection from secondhand smoke in enclosed public and work places, too many people living in multi-residential buildings are still being involuntarily exposed to secondhand smoke where they live.

While provincial laws provide Ontario residents with extensive protection from secondhand smoke in enclosed public and work places, too many people living in multi-residential buildings are still being involuntarily exposed to secondhand smoke where they live.

Data from the health unit’s monthly Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (RRFSS) of local health behaviors indicates 87 per cent of all households in Simcoe Muskoka are completely free of secondhand smoke. Unfortunately that number drops significantly among those living in multi-unit residential structures where smoke drifts between units through ventilation systems, wall outlets, open windows and balconies.

It’s a familiar story across the province. In a 2010 Ipsos Reid survey of people living in apartment buildings, townhomes, semi-detached houses and condominiums, nearly half reported they were exposed to drifting secondhand smoke from other units. Not surprisingly, a majority said they would choose a no-smoking building if available.

It is well known that breathing secondhand smoke:

  • increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease;
  • puts infants and children at increased risk for respiratory disorders, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); and
  • ongoing research continues to find links between secondhand smoke and problems with fetal brain development.

So why aren’t more landlords and owners making their multi-residential buildings no-smoking?

Many renters, buyers, landlords, property owners and condo board members are under the impression that No Smoking policies are illegal, discriminatory and unenforceable. The reality is adopting a no-smoking policy is legal and easy to implement, ensuring protection for both the health of renters and investments of owners.

A landlord can opt to go smoke free by adding a No Smoking policy to the lease agreement for all new tenants that prohibits smoking in the unit, as well as outdoor areas on the property. A No Smoking policy does not prohibit people who smoke from renting or buying in a building, rather it lays out the rules as to where smoking is not allowed. A new policy would not apply to existing tenants. As a result, it would take time for the building to transition to 100 per cent smoke free as current tenants who smoke in their units move out.

In condos, the rules are a little different, as condominium boards can vote on No Smoking policies without requiring a clause that would allow existing tenants to continue to smoke in their units.

No Smoking policies are a smart move. The health of every tenant is protected, while landlords, reduce the cleaning costs when turning over a unit, increase property value, and may benefit from reduced insurance rates as the risk of fire loss drops dramatically when buildings are smoke free.

The health unit is available to assist landlords and tenants who want to make smoke-free housing a healthy reality. If you live in a multi-unit residential building and you are ready to work towards a No Smoking policy or to make a quit smoking attempt yourself, we have resources and supports to help you succeed. For more information call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter, or visit simcoemuskokahealth.org.

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Dr. Simon is one of Simcoe Muskoka’s associate medical officers of health.


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