Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The rights of smokers must also be protected

Linda Fox moved out of her Toronto apartment after allegedly being exposed to secondhand smoke which she claims caused headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath.

But, I suspect it’s something of an exaggeration when Ms. Fox claims: "One of my neighbours said it was like being in a stale bar after people were in there smoking all night.” If she was getting that much smoke from a neighbouring unit, there's obviously something wrong with the building’s ventilation system and it has little to do with a neighbour’s smoking.

Managers of the subsidized housing complex where Fox lived, say they did their best to seal her unit, but Fox was unsatisfied. She is now suing for moving expenses and the cost of furniture she claims was damaged by secondhand smoke.

And, the Toronto Star was there to take a few pictures and record for posterity Fox’s flight from the fearsome secondhand smoke. It was a great opportunity to do a little smoker bashing.

It’s not that I don’t have any sympathy for Ms. Fox, who apparently suffers from scleroderma, an auto-immune disease. And, if she was as uncomfortable with secondhand smoke as she claims, she was right to seek out and move into a smoke-free building.

But she’s being unrealistic when she demands a “guarantee” that she won’t be exposed to the nuisance of secondhand smoke. Says Fox: "It's really hard to find somewhere they can really guarantee it."

Anti-smoking activists, of course, are using her case and similar cases across the country, to pressure governments and landlords into passing no smoking policies in private homes when those homes are part of a multi-unit building.

Apparently, they intend to concentrate on social housing which is subsidized by the province or the municipality, because they perceive that government will be sympathetic to their cause, and willing to blatantly discriminate against smokers. Besides, the threats and intimidation will work best against the more vulnerable members of society who are dependent on this type of housing.

Ontario Housing Minister Jim Watson acknowledges that it is questionable how far landlords can go to stop people smoking in their own home. "I have asked my staff for some clarification on what is allowable under the law."

But, Margarett Best, Minister of Health Promotion, says whatever is done, it will not include a law banning people from smoking in their own homes. The McGuinty Liberals, however, have reneged on similar assurances in the past.

Currently, even in buildings designated as smoke-free there is limited action a landlord can take against tenants who light up in the privacy of their own home. Evicting people for smoking in the privacy of their own home can be a costly proposition.

A simple straight-forward eviction proceeding for non-payment of rent can result in lawyers fees of $1,000 or more. In addition, there are expenses incurred to refurbish the unit, to make it ready for the next tenant. Painting, cleaning or replacing carpet, refinishing floors, etc, all add to the cost. Then, there’s the cost of vacancy loss while the unit is being refurbished and the landlord searches for a suitable tenant.

Evictions adversely impact the bottom line. And, evictions based on nuisance factors can be far more protracted and costly that simple non-payment of rent. If a tenant chooses to fight, there has to be an eviction proceeding. And no matter what the landlord says, the ultimate decision will be made by a judge in a court of law.

A judge will be more likely to demand verifiable evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke is a health hazard. Landlords won’t be able to talk their way around the well-known toxicological principle that the poison is in the dose. “No safe level” just won’t cut it.

A judge will want to know what other efforts the landlord has taken to resolve the alleged problem. Did they try to seal apartments, or modify the ventilation system to equalize air pressure and keep second-hand smoke out?

That’s why the anti-smoker fanatics are pressuring government to amend provincial tenancy law and make it easier to evict tenants who refuse to quit despite the presence of no smoking clauses in the lease.

Current tenants, for example, can’t be forced to comply with a new smoking ban in buildings. Tenants, whether living in a private building or social housing, are not required to sign a new lease or occupancy agreement; they can remain in their unit on a month to month basis under the terms of the old lease, and continue to smoke.

So, to further their agenda of eliminating smokers and advancing their cause, the anti-smoker fanatics need legislation that will enable landlords, both private and public, to openly discriminate against smokers. And, there are a lot of politicians out there who are willing to give it to them.

The last I heard, there were 5 million smokers in Canada. That’s 5 million voters. They’d better start fighting back.


Anonymous said...

Fighting back is made very difficult by the fact that there is only the Libertarian Party offer any choices for smokers and they are just too small to make much difference.
Of course the issue of smoking is just one item on their platform and smokers are not making full use of this available option for several different reasons.
Too bad.


bannedsmoker said...

The Toronto Star doesn't liek me!

I tried to submit 3 comments to that story, then they closed the comments. :(

At least they let me have one!



bannedsmoker said...

The last I heard, there were 5 million smokers in Canada. That’s 5 million voters. They’d better start fighting back.

One good way to do so would be to post your opinion, or thoughts on blogs, forums wherever they actually let you talk and not either BAN you, or "pre-moderate" you.

This is not limited to the intrawebZ! ANYWHERE! at work... while you are walking down the street and someone turns their "high-and-mighty" nose at you because you have a cigarette in your hand (I have experienced it! It ended in lulz and epic memriez and a holier-than-thou getting schooled. She kept walking... at a FAST pace... LoL!)

Seems that even IF you EVEN try to reason... there is some smokercontrol whiner whining about your smoking, your "addiction".

My only question is WHY are they STILL whining???? it is NeVeR good enough...

it's about time people start coming to terms with that... because we have to start thinking about what will they start whining about when there are no smokers left...

but yea... this is probably me talking to empty space...

good enough...