Naomi Baker thinks it’s fine that the provincial government declared the last week in June to be “Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing” week, but it would be even better if the government actually did something about the issue.
“That’s [declaring a week] different than having legislation passed,” observed Baker, the Langley mom who waged a nearly three-year battle to make her condominium a smoke-free building.
“We fought really tenaciously, and it took a lot to get it to pass.”
She was reacting to a call by the Clean Air Coalition of BC, which includes the B.C. Lung Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Canadian Cancer Society, for provincial action during the week to make it easier to ban smoking.
After her daughter, Faith, was born, Baker fought to stop second-hand smoke leaking into their unit through the walls and fixtures, setting up an online petition and also collecting signatures on paper.
In April, Baker and her husband delivered a petition for stronger anti-smoking rules to provincial housing minister Selina Robinson in Victoria.
Robinson seemed receptive, Baker said, but she is still waiting to hear more.
“I don’t have an update as to how [the rules would be changed],” Baker said.
Whatever sort of regulation emerges, Baker stressed, it shouldn’t allow smoking even when a majority of people in a multi-unit building support it.
“Ninety-nine per cent can’t decide that the one per cent has to suck it up and die of second-hand-smoke,” Baker commented.
Coalition spokesperson Jack Boomer declared existing regulations make it “extraordinarily difficult, time-consuming, costly, and seldom effective for residents, strata management, and landlords, to effect change on their own.”
“We need government intervention,” Bommer maintained.
“Creation of more 100 per cent smoke-free multi-unit housing options should be a health promotion priority.”
Boomer repeated the coalition call for “practical, positive change” pointing to recommendations outlined in a coalition-sponsored report released in 2016.
One of the Coalition’s recommendations includes making it possible, under BC’s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), for landlords to implement premises-wide no smoking policies that apply to all tenants, with no grandfathering requirements.
Tenants who smoke would be given six months to comply.
The Coalition report also recommends all new strata buildings should be automatically smoke-free, as opposed to current regulations which requires 75 per cent of owners to approve a ban.
One in two British Columbians live in multi-unit dwellings, and given the high cost of housing, and our aging population, the proportion of people living one atop and aside one another will continue to grow, Boomer estimated.
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