It’s no news that people who live with smokers are exposed to toxic second hand smoke. According to the American Lung Association, second hand smoke causes nearly 50,000 deaths per year, as well as major respiratory ailments such as lung cancer and asthma.
But it might come as a surprise that your nicotine addicted neighbor is jeopardizing your family’s health with every puff he takes.
I’ve always been a proponent of smoking bans in public spaces. My hometown, New York City, enacted the its first Smoke Free Air Act in 1988 and, 25 years later, smoking is now banned in bars, restaurants, beaches and parks. The laws are a true victory for New Yorkers’ short and long term health.
But as someone who’s lived with 4 children in apartment buildings for many years, I’ve been thinking lately about the very hazardous cigarette smoke that can travel from one apartment to the next. The American Cancer Society validates these worries, indicating on their website that multi-unit housing where smoking is permitted “is a special concern.” It turns out that “tobacco smoke can move through air ducts, wall and floor cracks, elevator shafts and along crawl spaces to contaminate apartments on other floors…”
I’ve heard inklings about multi-unit residences going smoke-free, but the concept seems to be in its nascent stage and hasn’t seen much in the way of public discourse. I was therefore thrilled to see a front page article in last Sunday’s New York Times Real Estate section about a major real estate management company’s decisions to ban smoking in its buildings.
The article speaks of “healthier living conditions” and of the real “health hazard” of second hand smoke. There is tremendous potency in the argument that second hand smoke insidiously moving from one apartment to the next is quite a bit more than just a nuisance. Building bylaws have been enacted for much less.
Of course, there are obviously plenty who have cried privacy infringement and who speak of their personal rights. The way I see it? No one has the right to dangerously contaminate the air in my home. Period.
Yes, these types of residence bans are difficult to enforce and, as the article points out, eviction is rare. But the big idea is now on the table and you can make sure that the conversation continues by talking to your building’s board and by advancing the current momentum through petitions.
Are smokers going to find fewer and fewer places to flick their cigarettes? Hopefully. But that’s the price they have to pay so that we non-smokers don’t have to suffer the very dangerous effects of their toxic habit.