Urban Life - Adrienne Ascah
There's no need to be passive about passive smoking. People living in condos, apartments and other multi-unit dwellings often don't speak out about second-hand smoke because they think their landlord can't do anything, said Pippa Beck, president of the Ottawa Council on Smoking and Health.
"People are too polite," Beck said. "They think 'it's a legal product, their home is their castle, I shouldn't say anything,' so you've got the silent majority of people suffering. They need to speak out and let it be known that they would prefer smoke-free."
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act requires indoor common areas to be smoke-free. Some of the smaller rental buildings in Ottawa have adopted no-smoking policies, but landlords of medium and large buildings have been hesitant to act so far, she said.
"We want to make sure people know (no-smoking policies are) legal, enforceable and you're not discriminating against people by doing it," Beck said.
Some legal experts have suggested tobacco addiction could be classified as a disability and preventing people from smoking in their homes could be considered discrimination, but Beck said case law refutes those claims.
"There's only one case in all of Canada where an adjudicator did recognize addiction to nicotine as a disability," Beck said.
The case involved workers who weren't given smoke breaks, thereby putting nicotine addicts who couldn't comply in danger of losing their jobs. This wouldn't be true of tenants who could step outside when they wanted to smoke, she said.
Many tenants, including those with health conditions exacerbated by second-hand smoke, are unhappy with involuntary exposure to smoke but don't tell their landlords. Some report their concerns to building superintendents who don't always pass on the message.
"Write to the CEO; write to the head of the company or the landlord directly," Beck said. "If landlords realize there's a demand for smoke-free, they'll supply smoke-free, but if they never hear about it, the status quo will remain."
For more information, see smokefreehousingon.ca.