Their right ends where my unit begins (and that includes my windows and doors). Secondhand smoke is toxic and exposure to it has well-established, undeniable, serious health risks.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states " Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice." There is no right to smoke outlined in the Charter.
In the case of cigarettes, they are not addicted to smoking but rather addicted to nicotine. There are other non-invasive alternatives such as using a nicotine patch that they can obtain free of charge through BC's medical system.
Remember, these individuals can also still go outside to smoke if they so choose. Whereas the non-smoking neighbours have no choice to breathe.
Similar to with nicotine, there are other non-invasive alternatives such as edibles and oils that individuals could choose to use. Plus, smoking itself is unhealthy and so just as opium has medicinal properties, physicians don't recommend that their patients smoke it, they prescribe it in other forms.
Many things are legal but the person doing, or using, that legal thing is still tasked to do it responsibly. There are already rules in place to ensure the health and safety of others with respect to other things that are legal such as operating vehicles, storing certain chemicals, how/where you can use firearms or fireworks, or how much and where you can use drugs and alcohol. Just because something is legal does not eliminate responsibility.
While secondhand smoke CAN be addressed under the current legislation in place, it is a VERY cumbersome, lengthy and often costly process, nevermind that the person continues to suffer the health consequences throughout that process. The current laws however first require proof that the smoking is a nuisance or hazard. How are strata councils equipped to establish whether it is/is not a nuisance or hazard – they have little to no health/air quality assessment training? Plus the word nuisance completely belittles the actual health consequences of smoke; it does not belong in the same category as loud noise - they are just not comparable.
Wherever there are rules there will be people that break rules. But it is much easier to enforce a bylaw that is in place, rather than having to first go about individually establishing, in each separate case, that the smoke is a nuisance and hazard before enforcing it. Either way it will be enforced because you cannot be a nuisance or hazard to another unit.
Consider driving as a comparison: it's illegal to go straight through a red light. People still do, but less people than if that rule were not in place. And when it happens, there are clear, specific consequences.
Health Canada and Worksafe BC both have clear statements outlining that there is NO KNOWN SAFE LEVEL of EXPOSURE. So how is a neighbour, council or landlord going to have expertise beyond that to say what amount is safe? 800 people die from secondhand smoke exposure in Canada every year.
The difference between smoke and other types of environmental emissions is the confined space aspect. If I sat in an enclosed garage with a car running you would think I’m crazy – the issue with carbon monoxide is it becomes dangerous and a health issue in a confined space. That’s the same comparison about someone’s smoke indoors vs outdoors. Outdoors the concentration of the chemicals is diluted by the air
This isn’t about unpleasant smells, like fish or spices or farts. It’s about a known, documented health hazard. I haven’t heard of a case of people dying from breathing in the smell of cooked tuna or curry, even if the person smelling it might find it unpleasant. And in the case of farts, well if your farts are so pungent that they are killing people, well maybe we do need to ban them (lol).
The truth of the matter is that most buildings do allow smoking because that is the default position according to the Schedule of Standard Bylaws under the Strata Property Act. Even rental properties have a hard time going smoke-free as the Residential Tenancy Act doesn't allow landlords to retroactively change existing tenancy agreements, meaning existing smokers are grandfathered in until they move.
Nonetheless, even if it is a smoke-friendly building, that still doesn’t give the right for somebody else's smoke to come into my home and poison me. If I took the same chemicals found in secondhand smoke, but in liquid form, and put them in somebody's cereal I could be charged with attempted murder. Or if I sprayed them on somebody, I'd be charged with assault. You don't have the right to poison somebody else in Canada, anywhere.
And by the way, we are in a housing crisis with ridiculous affordability issues – do you have the money to buy or rent me a house instead? And every other person affected by this issue too?
The current housing laws in place are still from an era when many people smoked and we didn’t know any better about the health risks. Many changes happen over time as we have more information available about health and safety. Look at advances in vehicle emissions, car seat or seat belt regulations, types of materials used in buildings. We no longer have separate smoking/non-smoking sections in restaurants or hotels because they don’t work – you can't eliminate the toxins or limit the air transferring between those spaces.
We want the laws to now be updated to reflect the known, health risks associated with second hand smoke.
The petition we have developed outlines that the DEFAULT position in all multi-unit dwellings be smoke free, regardless of owned, rented, subsidized or other. With that said, the same rules that currently allow any of such building to pass a smoke-free bylaw would still be available, just in reverse. So if the landlord, or if the quota of votes in a Strata situation, decided to allow smoking then they could continue to do so.