December 2, 2016
BC health advocates urge BC government to follow US lead and ban smoking in public housing
Friday, December 2, 2016 - BC health advocates are commending the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its new ruling requiring all U.S. public housing agencies to implement smoke-free policies over the next 18 months. These policies are being implemented to protect the health of residents and apply to private units (including patios and balconies) as well as all common areas. Clean Air Coalition of BC partners (the BC Lung Association, Heart & Stroke, BC & Yukon and Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon Division) urge the Province to follow HUD’s lead.
“The BC government recently announced a $516-million investment in affordable rental housing development,” said Jack Boomer, Clean Air Coalition of BC Director. “We suggest the Province make all new subsidized public housing 100% smoke-free from the get go.”
The Province subsidizes about 100,000 households in communities across BC in partnership with approximately 800 non-profit housing providers. Its new investment will add 2,900 affordable rental housing units to that total.
“We’re not saying people have to quit smoking to live in public housing. We’re just saying that they can’t smoke inside their unit or on their balconies, as we hear almost daily what a negative impact this can have on the health of neighbouring families,” said Boomer.
BC health advocates say by going smoke-free public housing providers, and the taxpayers who support them, will save upwards of $1,000 to $3,500 per unit in maintenance costs alone each time a tenant who smokes moves out.
Current provincial law prohibits smoking in most public places, and in all residential building common areas, but do not apply within a private residential unit, patio or balcony.
“It may have sounded radical to ban smoking in public housing 20 years ago,” Boomer added. “But it’s 2016, and the next logical step is to protect children, seniors and all vulnerable populations from inhaling toxic secondhand smoke in their own homes.”
“Living in a smoke-free home should not be a health protection afforded to only those with means,” said Boomer. “For many British Columbians, social housing providers are the landlord of last resort. Many wait years for a subsidized unit, and then find themselves and their families exposed to deadly secondhand smoke on a regular basis with no means to move.”
“Besides, smoke-free housing is a win-win. It’s perfectly legal, reduces maintenance costs, helps prevent fires and addresses increasing demand for smoke-free housing,” Boomer continued.
The Clean Air Coalition has been advocating for increased smoke-free public, private and rental housing options for more than a decade. Through smokefreehousingbc.ca it makes a wide range of self-help tools available to residents and housing providers, including fact sheets, policy templates and legal opinions. The Coalition is committed to protecting the most vulnerable by assisting multi-unit housing authorities and other property owners in BC to go smoke-free in their buildings.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure.
In June 2016, the Clean Air Coalition of BC released a case and recommendations for government action on smoke-free multi-unit housing. Read the report here.