Property owners need to provide smoke-free housing

Courtesy of Activate Allen County

November 18, 2013

We Americans are an independent lot. We relish our freedom and take pride in our liberties. Among our most cherished beliefs is that what we do in our own home is nobody’s business. As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else, we should be left alone to do as we please.

That’s all true. But when the house you live in is not your own and the behavior you undertake does hurt others, it’s time to rethink what rights you really have.

Take smoking, for example. Most specifically, consider smoking in an apartment, town house or other multi-unit housing complex. You may think it’s your undeniable right and that it’s hurting no one, but you are wrong on both front.

Property owners have a right to restrict or ban smoking in apartments or rental units they lease out. Many would argue they also have a responsibility to do it, because that smoke can do serious harm to non-smoking neighbors.

If you live in multi-unit housing, and you smell cigarette smoke, you are being exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a group A carcinogen which means that it has been proven to cause cancer. There is no “safe level” of exposure to secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause immediate adverse effects including eye irritation, throat irritation, coughing, chest discomfort and difficulty breathing. Medical studies have shown secondhand smoke to be a significant factor in illnesses and diseases including: lung cancer, heart disease, COPD, asthma attacks, strokes, emphysema, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and impotence. All of this in nonsmokers, just from exposure to secondhand smoke.

If you are a landlord, understand that smoke-free is a good business decision. While 20 percent of Allen County residents smoke, that means 80 percent do not, so the great majority of potential customers are looking for a place to live unpolluted by smoke.

If you rent and you are exposed to secondhand smoke, you can tell your landlord that you want to live in a smoke-free building. And there are other ways you can get involved in the effort, too.

Thursday, Activate Allen County is holding a Healthy Housing Seminar for owners and tenants. Experts from Housing and Urban Development will be on hand, along with health, business and legal experts to lay out the case for smoke-free housing. Join us to discuss what can be done to ensure that every resident in Allen County is protected from secondhand smoke where they live. We will be on the second floor of the YMCA Annex in the Walnut Room.

For more information, contact the Activate Allen County offices at 419-221-5035, or visit us online at

Health tips courtesy of Activate Allen County will appear in this space every Monday.