A Typical Question
Subject: Tobacco smoke drift in apartment building
We are currently suffering our neighbours cigarette smoke drifting into our apartment. We have informed our body corporate/strata and requested action but to no avail.
What can we do? Any advice?
Advice about Secondhand Smoke
Here is some advice for all home-owners and tenants when your home is being invaded by secondhand smoke from neighbours.
1. Firstly, write a short polite note advising that, despite the fact that tobacco is a legally available product and that they may feel they can use it in their own home, the smoke from that product is causing you and your family health problems and great distress and that you request them politely to smoke where their smoke won’t affect others, especially children and others who may be allergic to the poisons in secondhand smoke.
Note: They would already be aware that smoking is banned indoors in all public places and in many outdoor places, especially near children’s play areas and congested areas and sporting stadiums. This is not primarily because the smell is offensive but because even a small amount of secondhand smoke can trigger deadly asthma attacks and heart and lung conditions. Children are particularly susceptible due to their underdeveloped respiratory capacity.
2. Keep copies of all correspondence. Send a copy to your local State MP and State Minister for Health, requesting their assistance and support in this matter.
3. Keep a diary of any incidents, and of any medical visits connected with this matter, including stress conditions.
4. Protect yourselves by blocking smoke from coming into your home – things won’t change overnight. If necessary, use draught-excluders and foam around doorways and have a small fan blowing smoke away from your entranceway or other openings..
5. Take photographs of every measure you take to protect yourselves from the smoke.
6. Try to remain calm, don’t shout or make unnecessary noises nor do anything which allows the smokers to point blame at you for any minor transgressions. Eg if you have a pet, make sure you keep the area nearby clean and that the pet is kept reasonably quiet. That is, show that you are being reasonable and that you expect respect for your rights in return. They have every right to expect clean water to come out of the taps in their home. You have the same rights, and expectations, for clean air.
Source: Advice copied from Clean Air Newsletter #54.
A Typical Letter
Feel free to use this letter as a draft in writing your own letter.
XXX March 2010
Request to Reduce Secondhand Smoke-Drift
We have lived at this address since XXX, and we regard this unit as our family home.
Unfortunately, over the past few years, we have been unable to enjoy the full use of our home due to loud noises and infiltration of tobacco smoke into the open air as well as into our home.
The noise problem has eased at last, thank you, but the tobacco smoke has become such a hazard that we must ask that you respect our rights to clean air by not smoking in any space where the tobacco-smoke can affect us. This especially happens when people smoke in our shared pergola.
You must be aware that, if we can smell the smoke, the poisons are going into ours and our children’s lungs. You may be under the impression that, because you smoke outdoors, the smoke doesn’t cause a problem, but the smoke gets blown in every direction and enters our home at all times. We should not be forced to barricade ourselves and our children into our home to protect ourselves from the poisons in tobacco smoke.
As a person who smokes, you may feel that you have the right to use a legally available product, but this does not apply where your smoking affects others. Your right to smoke stops at your lips. Conversely, everybody has the right to clean air. Clean water, clean air – everybody’s inalienable rights. You would be justifiably outraged if something happened to poison the clean water coming through our plumbing system. Similarly, we are distressed from tobacco smoke drifting through our clean air, everywhere.
Secondhand smoke is nuisance and a health hazard, far worse than noise, and especially when in the vicinity of anyone who has asthma or other respiratory conditions or heart conditions. If you remember, I have asthma, and my father, who will be coming to spend a few weeks with us, is a heart patient who suffered a cardiac arrest a few years ago.
Nobody should be forced to barricade his/her family into the home to protect the family against the poisons in secondhand smoke.
You may suggest that the solution is for us to move away from the duplex, but that wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem. Exactly the same situation could occur elsewhere. Besides, we are not causing the problem – it’s the smoke which is causing the problem. We would not even suggest that you move away, simply that you stop smoking where it affects others. We all came here to make this property our home, not necessarily to smoke.
May we offer another possible solution? With all the medical evidence about the deadly dangers of smoking, and the positive aspects of freeing oneself from addiction to nicotine, we would be willing to contribute to your quitting. We have a book which has apparently been extremely helpful (Allan Carr’s “Easy way to quit Smoking”.) – it has apparently helped a lot of people. Alternatively, you may wish to try Quitline’s method(s) Phone: XXXXX. We would also like to contribute towards whichever therapy you choose. In return, we would ask that you say to your friends that you prefer for them to smoke away from the property, for yours and your neighbours’ protection.
We are aware of legal avenues which could be taken to resolve this situation, but would much prefer not to resort to such drastic measures, even with the support of several organisations and legal aid.