A 68-year-old North Bay woman whose lungs are damaged from years of working in bars and restaurants where customers smoked is seeking government help to protect her from secondhand exposure at home.

Yvette Giroux said the smell of cigarettes gets so strong in her apartment that she can't open her windows or sit on her balcony.

She said she takes five medications for her lungs and the smell of smoke can be so bad that it has become a health problem. It's her neighbours who smoke, and she doesn't see why she should be the one to have to move.

Giroux said her landlord offered to move her to another building, but she turned it down because it was too far from shops.

"I have nothing against people who want to smoke," said Giroux. "But don't affect my lifestyle. I don't want to be hooked up to an oxygen tank or be put into a senior citizen home because my lungs are finished and I can't look after myself anymore."

She moved into the building five years ago knowing there were smokers in certain units, but said, since April, they've moved closer to her apartment and she is increasingly bothered by the smoke.

Government mandate?

Ron Melnyk, a bylaw enforcement officer with the City of North Bay, said the city and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act both prohibit smoking in public areas of apartment buildings such as lobbies, elevators and stairwells — but not inside private residences.

He said landlords can try to set restrictions on smoking with tenants before they move in but enforcement happens on a case-by-case basis and can be difficult.

However, he said there is no regulation controlling whether tenants smoke or not in their own homes.

That is where Giroux would like the government to get involved; to provide clearer rules about smoking in communal living spaces such as apartment buildings.   

Ideally, she'd like to see the government mandate smoke-free apartment units for those who don't want to live surrounded by smoke in their own homes where they can't get away from it.

"I'm 68-years-old," she said, "I don't want to be carrying an oxygen tank when I don't have to and I didn't cause this problem to myself."