Perth County, Stratford Ont. officials push for smoke-free rental housing

Perth County officials, including the City of Stratford, are looking for landlords to voluntarily make rental properties smoke-free.

Landlords asked to ban smoking in multi-unit dwellings for health, safety benefits

'One in three Ontarians that live in rental buildings continue to experience involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke,' a public health advocate says. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Perth County officials, including the City of Stratford, are hoping to reduce smoking at home by enlisting help from building owners. 

"We're encouraging landlords to implement policies within their building to have all of their units smoke free," public health promoter Adrienne Adas told CBC Radio Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition.

Fire prevention officer Rod MacDonald is behind the initiative and said he's pushing to eliminate any possible ignition sources for fires.

MacDonald said that according to the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal, there have been nearly 500 fires related to smoking materials in the past decade that could've been prevented, including in the Region of Waterloo.

"We have that call volume in the hundreds, and of that, probably around 20 per cent are related to smoking-related fires," MacDonald said of southern Ontario cities such as Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. "That's a pretty high stat to tend with."

'Completely voluntary'

While only government legislation can mandate landlords on how to act, Adas said the choice is theirs. 

"It's completely a voluntary thing. We can't make anybody do anything, but the benefits are clear to both the landlord and the tenant from a health and a safety perspective."

And although it's a relatively new concept in this region, Adas said "most people are in favour of it" in other parts of Ontario. 

It's sort of a no-brainer, really.- Adrienne Adas

"One in three Ontarians that live in rental buildings continue to experience involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke," Adas said. "And 80 per cent of people living in multi-unit housing, or rental units, do want to live smoke free, [that] is what the research is showing."

Individual rights vs. health concerns

Th issues raises questions such as the rights of tenants who pay their rent but choose to smoke inside their own unit.

"[The] majority of people are sort of going the other way," Adas believes, citing cases of people attending a smoke-cessation clinic in order to quit as landlords begin to implement these anti-smoking measures. 

"Basically, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act currently covers all of the common areas in a rental building," she said, but this relatively-new initiative brought forward in recent years would push the smoking ban to all parts of a dwelling, including a private unit. 

But how does this policy stand against discrimination claims, as seen in other parts of the country?

"It is legal and it saves money and it offers a great deal of benefit, again, to the health and safety of the tenants and the landlord in terms of financial aspects," Adas added. "It's sort of a no-brainer, really."

MacDonald said fire officials are receiving "less and less complaints" about smoking, but to him, a wider ban is still worth pursuing. 

"There's so few people...doing it anymore, so I don't think it'll be a big leap to take on this partnership in this campaign," he said.

For Adas, the bottom line is "there's no safe level of second-hand smoke" and people on both sides of the argument understand the importance of respecting clean air for each other's sake. 

"It's definitely the way a lot of municipalities are going now, there's over 100 [smoke-free] units in Ontario now, so it's definitely taking off," she said.​


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