June is smoke-free multi-unit housing month
- Nearly one in two British Columbians live in multi-unit housing today (condos, town houses and apartments). Half are impacted by drifting second-hand smoke, a known health hazard. As housing densifies, the problem will only get worse.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 does not apply within a private home, patio or balcony.
- Research confirms four out of five British Columbians want to live in 100 percent smoke free environments, but the supply of smoke-free multi-unit housing - both public and private sectors - is scarce.Our smoking rate, at 14 percent, may be Canada’s lowest, but those who do smoke, smoke at home and on their balconies, perpetuating the health hazard of second-hand smoke exposure we are working to resolve.Increasing numbers of multi-unit housing residents are finding themselves trapped with unwelcome second-hand smoke infiltrating their homes. This is especially problematic for vulnerable populations: the elderly, people with chronic conditions, and those living in public housing. Many have neither the income to consider alternatives nor affordable options to choose from.
- Debate regarding the harms of second-hand smoke is over. Public tolerance is fast diminishing. The only way to fully protect our health from second-hand smoke is to eliminate smoking in multi-unit housing. We recommend the BC government consider the following:
- Develop smoking status disclosure laws. Require landlords and strata corporations to disclose to prospective tenants and buyers a building’s smoking status, and where the smoking units are located in the building.
- Amend Residential Tenancy Act to make it easier to go smoke-free. Permit landlords to implement premise-wide no-smoking policies that apply to all existing tenants (no grandfather clause), giving tenants six months’ notice to comply.
- Adopt smoke-free policies for all BC Housing properties. Adopt a policy for all properties owned and managed by the BC government (BC Housing). Consider public and stakeholder consultations to address concerns.
- Amend Strata Property Act to make all new strata corporations smoke-free. Unless owners choose to pass a ¾ vote to allow smoking, no smoking would be allowed. The amendment would not affect existing strata developments.
- Introduce incentives for builders /developers to establish smoke-free properties. Consider tax credits that designate new buildings smoke-free, and reductions in insurance premiums for the affordable housing sector. This has been successful in the US.