News / Vancouver

Secondary-smoke in apartments, condos a health risk: coalition

Clean Air Coalition wants building smoking risks disclosed with housing to would-be inhabitants, more smoke-free suites for National Non-Smoking Week

A tenant smokes a cigarette on an apartment balcony on Wednesday.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro

A tenant smokes a cigarette on an apartment balcony on Wednesday.

When they say “love thy neighbour,” that probably includes not slowly killing them.

And though what you do in your own home is private, your second-hand smoke may not be, according to anti-smoking advocates.

“People are increasingly living in apartments and townhouses,” said Jack Boomer, director of the Clean Air Coalition, which includes the B.C. Lung Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Canadian Cancer Society. “When you live that close together, we know people smoking on your patio, balcony or apartment can go into the neighbour’s unit.

“Second-hand smoke is harmful to those who breathe it.”

During National Stop-Smoking Week, which runs until Saturday, the health advocacy coalition released a report outlining ways the province could do more to encourage the 11-14 per cent of British Columbians who still smoke tobacco to quit — and prevent youth from starting.

One of the key recommendations is around Vancouver’s hottest controversial topic: housing.

“Increase smoke-free options for the growing majority who live in multi-unit housing,” is one call from the group. As well, the group wants suites with adjacent smokers or previous smoking occupants to have that information disclosed to would-be buyers or tenants.

“More smoke-free housing is an area we’ve been working on for 14 years,” Boomer added.

Many apartment buildings and condo stratas are increasingly adding no-smoking clauses, and although many bristle at the notion of policing tenants’ behaviour in the privacy of their home, there are measures that could at least protect others from the effects of their neighbours. And with marijuana being legalized July 2, updates to housing regulations are already being considered — offering an “opportunity,” Boomer said, to curb smoke of all types indoors.

“Many people think tobacco is done and there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “But in fact there’s a lot still to do. More than half a million people in B.C. smoke tobacco products.”

Tobacco costs the province an estimated $2 billion a year in health fees.

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