A Breath of Fresh Air: Policies to Address Second-Hand Smoke Exposure in British Columbia's Multi-Unit Rentals

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Author: Fox, Andrea
Despite a decline in provincial smoking rates, data specific to British Columbia indicates that a large portion of residents of multi-unit dwellings are exposed to the second-hand smoke of their neighbours. Further, renters and lower income persons are exposed at higher rates. A large body of scientific evidence confirms the negative health impacts associated with second-hand smoke and in particular, that there is no safe level of exposure. Interviews with relevant experts, international case studies and survey data analyses identify key considerations as well as barriers and facilitators to inform potential policy options. This study assesses four policy options: smoke-free housing for all multi-unit rentals, including balconies and patios; amending the right to quiet enjoyment in the Residential Tenancy Act (2002) to include intrusive second-hand smoke; implementing a disclosure law requiring landlords to state the smoking status of the building, unit and premises in the tenancy agreement; and, initiating a public health education campaign on the health hazards associated with neighbour smoke. To promote widespread awareness and to provide tools for addressing exposure, a public health education campaign is recommended in the short term. As smoke-free housing represents the most effective option for protection of health, it is recommended to ban smoking in multi-unit rentals in the medium term under the condition that the liberty and equity risks which arise under this option are addressed. A disclosure law is recommended in conjunction with smoke-free housing to promote awareness and compliance as well as to inform tenants of potential exposure resulting from grandfathered leases or exceptional circumstances.
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