TORONTO – Toronto lags behind other Canadian cities when it comes to smoke-free housing, according to non-smoking advocates who say there is a growing movement to change that.
“Eighty per cent of residents who live in multi-unit housing in Ontario would choose smoke free if they had a choice,” said Lorraine Fry, the executive director of the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association. “Landlords don’t know that it’s legal for them to actually have a no-smoking policy in their lease.”
Second-hand smoke was a problem for condo resident Meera Dossa.
“I would walk through my front door and it would literally feel like I was walking into an ashtray,” said Dossa.
Dossa said she approached the tenants downstairs, who were smokers. When that didn’t work she went to building management but still faced resistance – so she went above them.
“People from higher up were in my unit smelling the smoke. They really got things going because they could smell what I was smelling on a constant basis.” she said.
Dossa said building maintenance came to her unit and detected all the potential air leaks and vents which were subsequently sealed with caulking and tape.
“I was still able to tell whenever the tenants were smoking downstairs. So it wasn’t a 100 per cent,” said Dossa.
The Ontario Lung Association said smoking in multi-unit dwellings should be of greater concern to the public because of the risk of second hand and third hand smoke.
“[Third hand smoke] could will have similar effects of second hand smoke.” said respiratory therapist Chris Haromy. “It could have implications in terms of causing asthma, damage to the liver, it will definitely damage human cells.”
The largest residential tower in Vancouver’s lower mainland made headlines two years ago when owners voted to go entirely smoke free.
“People that had lived in the building that did smoke, the bylaw did not grandfather them so they were not allowed to smoke in their unit anymore once this was adopted and filed,” said Ken Armstrong, an associate broker for ReMax Commercial, the managing agents for the Melville Tower.
The Non-Smokers’ Rights Association has had meetings with Toronto Community Housing about adopting smoke free units.
“Toronto Public Health and our organization will be approaching them again to see if we can hopefully spark their interest in having at least some of their units go smoke free,” said Fry.
“We’d prefer that it was like Waterloo or Ottawa, where their entire units would go smoke free.”