Where there's smoke, there’s fire:
Arguments ignite over banning
smoking in B.C.’s multi-unit buildings
By: Bethany Lidsay
13 June 2016
is the strata president at Hycroft Towers in Vancouver, BC. The
building has a 100-per-cent non-smoking policy for residents.
Photograph by: Jason Payne , Vancouver Sun
Paul Aradi began smoking half a century ago and had become accustomed
to enjoying a cigarette in his Langley condo. That is, until his strata
council banned the practice in 2009.
“They’re harassing me all the time and bullying,” the 71-year-old
veteran said of the ban.
“I’m not interfering with everybody’s life, so why do people have a
right to interfere in my life? Because they get more pollution when
they walk in the street or whatever.”
Aradi, who served as a peacekeeper in Cyprus, refused to give up
smoking inside and eventually racked up $2,300 in fines. He’s filed a
complaint about the ban with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, but
earlier this year, a judge ordered Aradi to comply with the bylaw and
smoke outside the building.
Aradi’s waiting for triple bypass surgery, and says the walk outside to
the street is too difficult for him, so he’s been forced to give up
In the meantime, health advocates are hoping more apartment landlords
and strata councils will follow the no-smoking example of Aradi’s
“We’ve been working on this issue for 12 years. We’ve been educating
landlords, tenants, strata corporations, and we’re making positive
progress,” explained Jack Boomer, director of the Clean Air Coalition
“But the speed at which this is moving is glacial.”
The coalition argues that since the majority of people can longer
afford a single family home, the 62 per cent of Vancouver-area
residents living in multi-unit housing deserve more protection from
Boomer’s group is asking for five changes to B.C. legislation that
• Require landlords and strata corporations to disclose the smoking
status of the building and location of smoking units to prospective
tenants and buyers.
• Amend the Residential Tenancy Act so that landlords can make their
buildings completely smoke-free without written consent of tenants.
• Make all B.C. Housing properties smoke-free.
• Change the Strata Property Act so that all new developments are
non-smoking by default.
• Offer incentives to developers to designate new buildings as
Three buildings managed directly by B.C. Housing have already gone
smoke-free, but the regulations only apply to new tenants. The province
allows non-profit housing operators to decide on their own policies.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Kristy Anderson wrote in an email that
while B.C. is committed to cutting out tobacco use and has enacted many
laws regarding smoking in public, “the provincial government does not
regulate smoking in a person’s home and does not anticipate a ban on
smoking in an individual’s private home.”
Civil liberties advocates argue that governments should proceed with
caution on legislation restricting smoking in private homes.
“We need to operate very carefully within that realm before we are
unjustifiably limiting people’s autonomy and freedom,” said Micheal
Vonn, policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
She expressed concern for elderly people living in B.C. Housing who may
be forced out into the cold, putting their health at risk, if the
coalition’s recommendations are implemented.
Shawn Anderson heard similar arguments when his Vancouver strata
council debated a non-smoking bylaw last year, but he dismissed them as
secondary to the health concerns of non-smokers. Still, he was taken
aback by how much opposition there was to the bylaw, even from
“When we took the vote, I was actually surprised by how close it was.
We just squeaked in,” he said.
The new bylaw came as a relief. The woman living above him at Hycroft
Towers, in South Granville, is a smoker, and until recently the smell
of cigarettes drifted into his apartment on a daily basis.
“We live in an older building. The … glass is single pane, so the smoke
just kind of wafts in,” he said.
“I guess it’s a little unfair to me, but I grew up with smokers and I
also see the effect that smoke has on people, with lung cancer and
other health issues.”
Since the bylaw came into effect, the number of complaints about
smoking in the building has gone down, but the strata has had to issue
a few warning letters and one fine.
As for the woman living above Anderson, “Periodically she still
smokes,” he said. “She’s on (warning) number two now.”