Affordable housing is not our only housing problem, say BC health advocates
With nearly one in two British Columbians living side by side and one atop the other in condos, town houses and apartments, they say affordable housing is not the only issue concerning home buyers and renters.
They argue living in a smoke-free home should be a basic health protection afforded every British Columbian – not just those able to own their own detached homes.
“We field scores of second-hand smoke complaints on almost a daily basis from desperate British Columbians looking for help to escape the smoke infiltrating their homes from neighbouring units,” said Scott McDonald, President & CEO, BC Lung Association.
Unwanted exposure to toxic second-hand smoke in multi-unit housing has increased from 30 to 50 percent from 2008 to 2013, in spite of BC’s record low smoking rate (14.3 per cent).
Current provincial law prohibits smoking in most public places, and in all residential building common areas, but do not apply within a private home, patio or balcony.
The BC health advocates argue living in a smoke-free home should be a basic health protection afforded every British Columbian – not just those able to own their own detached homes.
“People are trapped. Many can’t afford to move, and even if they could, there is a critical shortage of smoke-free buildings where a smoke-free environment is guaranteed,” said Adrienne Bakker, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation, B.C & Yukon.
Research confirms four out of five British Columbians want to live in 100 percent smoke free environments, but there is a scarcity of smoke-free multi-unit housing in BC, in both public and private sectors.
“It may have sounded radical to ban smoking in apartment buildings 20 years ago. But it’s 2016 and it’s the next logical step to protect children, seniors and all vulnerable populations from inhaling toxic secondhand smoke against their will in their own homes,” Bakker continued.
Some argue government has no business regulating what people do in the privacy of their own homes, and point out tobacco is a legal product.
“If smokers were only a danger to themselves, that argument would have some merit. But that's not the case,” said McDonald. “When your neighbour’s smoke infiltrates your home, you are inhaling the same toxic fumes as the smoker. Ventilation cannot contain the smoke so there’s no escape.”
“Some private strata corporations are recognizing the benefits of going smoke-free, but they are moving very slowly,” he continued. “As we densify to meet affordable housing demand, things will only get worse if measures aren’t taken to increase the public and private smoke-free housing supply.”
“It’s time for government to act. Housing developers and providers are not prioritizing no-smoking policies, despite the clear marketing and financial benefits, not to mention the health benefits.”
In recognition of Smoke-Free Housing Month, the Clean Air Coalition of BC is calling upon the provincial government to enact legislative and regulatory measures to stimulate the supply of 100 percent smoke-free multi-unit housing.
"Making a building smoke-free is perfectly legal, reduces maintenance costs, helps prevent fires and addresses the huge public demand for smoke-free housing options. We’ve even surveyed Realtors™ and found that the majority agree it’s harder to sell a home where people have smoked," added Bakker.
“It’s a no brainer really,” added McDonald. “Taking a leadership role in this area is a logical extension of current laws implemented to protect BC residents from second-hand smoke in work and public places.”
JUNE 2016 WAS PROCLAIMED SMOKE-FREE MULTI-UNIT HOUSING MONTH BY THE PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
For easy‐to‐use info on how to implement a no‐smoking policy or bylaw visit: www.smokefreehousingbc.ca.
About the Clean Air Coalition of BC
The BC Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, BC & Yukon, work together as partners in the Clean Air Coalition to raise public awareness about the serious health risks of exposure to secondhand smoke and to advocate for smoke‐free environments.
About the Lung Association
For more than 100 years, the Lung Association has led the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air. The Lung Association is the leading organization in Canada working to save lives, prevent and improve lung health through research, advocacy, education and support. bc.lung.ca
About the Heart and Stroke Foundation
The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen. heartandstroke.ca