Campaign to ban smoking in B.C. apartments bound for legislature

Online petition nears 14,000 while ‘paper-based’ version required by province tops 700

  • Jan. 8, 2019 2:20 p.m.

A B.C. mom whose online petition to ban smoking in multi-unit residential buildings gathered thousands of names is preparing to present her case to the provincial legislature.

Naomi Baker said because the legislature doesn’t recognize digital signatures, she has been collecting names on a “paper-based” petition since October, with the intent of presenting the petition to MLAs.

“Our intention always was to take it to the leg,” Baker said.

So far the old-school petition has gathered about 700 names, she said, “with more coming in every day.”

Her website, https://airweshare.ca/ has made the signup forms available for download and printing.

READ MORE: Langley mom wants smoking ban in multi-unit dwellings

Baker launched a Change.org petition for a “Multi-Unit Dwelling Smoking Ban in B.C.”using her maiden name of Naomi Goffman in August of last year.

It said all multi-unit dwellings in BC should be smoke-free.

“Smoke-free multi-unit dwellings will vastly improve the health of British Columbians, reduce the risk of apartment (and) condo fires, and reduce cost of health care by reducing preventable health issues caused by second hand smoke,” the petition stated.

Baker said it was the birth of her daughter Faith a few months earlier that inspired her campaign..

She and her husband said they have been dealing with second-hand smoke coming into their unit through the walls and fixtures ever since they bought their condo in Langley City in 2016.

Shortly before the Bakers moved in, strata council records show there was an attempt to make the building smoke-free, Baker said, but it lost by one vote.

Next year, a motion to ban smoking on common property bylaw passed, something the Bakers said has actually made the situation worse because the smoker can’t go out on their balcony.

At last count, the online petition nearing 14,000 names, and while it may not officially count with the province, Baker expects the fact it generated that much support will have some weight and will be mentioned when the paper petition is filed.

“It does indicate how big an issue it is,” Baker said.,

Langley MLA Mary Polak is planning to present the petition some time after the legislature resumes sitting in mid-February.

Polak said Baker made a “compelling case” for the restriction when they met a few weeks ago.

The MLA said the petition could result in a change of law “if the government is willing to listen,.”

One possibility, Polak suggested, could be changing the default in current regulations, where multi-unit residential buildings automatically allow smoking unless owners vote to ban it.

Changing it to automatically non-smoking would require a vote to permit the practice, she said.

”That puts the onus on the people who wish to smoke,” Polak said.

Since Baker launched her campaign, she said she has discovered her family is far from alone.

“I’ve received hundreds of emails from people who are in the same position as we are.”

She said some have endured smoke as long eight years.

“They’re frustrated and so relieved that someone is bringing this to light, because they’ve been suffering,” Baker said.

“They [often] say I ended up moving because nothing was being done.”

In her own case, Baker said the smoke problem in her family’s suite has lessened.

Most of the cracks that were allowing smoke to waft into their suit have been plugged, and because the family has been filing repeated bylaw complaints with the strata council, the number of incidents has dropped.

“We get two to four days with no smoke [some weeks]” she said, but smoke still gets in through their electrical outlets.

A May 2018 poll by the Clean Air Coalition of BC found that half of BC multi-unit housing residents surveyed have experienced second-hand smoke exposure and nearly 90 per cent consider it harmful.

Seventy per cent said the provincial government should make all new market rate and social housing complexes 100 per cent smoke-free and the same amount supported a no-smoking bylaw by default that applies to all units, including balconies.

Under current B.C. laws, people are not allowed to “smoke tobacco, hold lighted tobacco, use an e-cigarette or hold an activated e-cigarette” in common areas of apartment buildings, condominiums and dormitories or transit shelters.

That includes elevators, hallways, parking garages, party or entertainment rooms, laundry facilities and lobbies.

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