Homes next target for smoking ban
An effort this fall will urge multiunit buildings to adopt a smoke-free policy
The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, which spearheaded the controversial Smoke-Free Workplaces law, now wants to extend smoke-free regulations into Hawaii's condominiums, apartments and townhouse units.
The coalition is not planning to push for a state law banning smoking in isle condo and apartment units, but it is preparing a campaign to show landlords and multifamily housing boards how to pass their own regulations under current laws.
The group has obtained an opinion from Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett saying that nothing in existing law prohibits renting only to nonsmokers or adopting smoke-free policies for condominiums -- including individual units and lanais.
Critics say that the movement discriminates against smokers and smacks of paternalism.
The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, the nonprofit group that spearheaded the state's Smoke-Free Workplaces law, now wants to expand smoking restrictions to Hawaii's condominiums, apartments and townhomes.
While the coalition does not have plans to push for a broader state law, it is planning an educational campaign this fall that would help landlords and multifamily housing boards pass their own regulations under existing law.
The group has obtained an opinion from Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett saying that nothing in state or federal law prohibits privately owned condominiums or apartment complexes from renting to nonsmokers exclusively or adopting smoke-free policy for the property, including individual units and lanais.
Hawaii's Smoke-Free Workplaces law, which went into effect in December, effectively placed Hawaii's restaurants, bars, workplaces and visitor accommodations under smoking restrictions. However, the law does not address exposure to secondhand smoke in the home.
Although the Smoke-Free Workplaces law drew fire from some pro-smoking organizations, as well as criticism from some elements of the state's visitor industry worried about its impact on tourism, the coalition said most of the community feedback actually supported further protection.
"We were expecting to get calls from businesses about complying with the law, but about one-third of all the calls that we received about the Smoke-Free Workplaces law were for exposure in the home," said Deborah Zysman, coalition executive director, adding that many multifamily-unit residents complained that secondhand smoke infiltrated their homes and lanais.
Since the health risks associated with smoking are the same in the home as everywhere else, the coalition decided to tackle secondhand smoke exposure in private residences.
Talk of the proposed movement has prompted mixed reactions.
The notion that nonsmokers should be protected from smokers is rather paternalistic, said Jolyn Tenn, chairman of the Hawaii Smokers Alliance, which was formed in reaction to the smoke-free law.
"What they are proposing to do with condos is just idiocy," Tenn said. "Everyone has a smoking ban -- it's called your nose. If you don't like it, get up and walk away."
Tenn said many businesses have been damaged by the coalition's workplaces law and that when state legislators supported the rule change, they unleashed a beast.
"Even in California you can smoke in a bar," Tenn said. "Hawaii has the toughest anti-smoking legislation."
Smoking is not a protected right in Hawaii, Zysman said. Besides, there is already a precedent for smoke-free regulations in Hawaii's private residences, she said.
About 16 percent of Hawaii condominiums and apartment complexes already ban smoking in units but not on lanais; 28 percent ban smoking on lanais but not in units; and 33 percent require smoke-free units and lanais, Zysman said.
"Banning smoking is not unlike banning pets or barbecues on the lanais," she said.
Michelle Richardson-De Almeida, who owns a 30-unit apartment building in Salt Lake, decided to make the building smoke-free when the workplaces law went into effect.
Richardson-De Almeida said that most tenants reacted favorably to the change, which banned smoking in the building units, lanais and walkways.
"We had a lot of positive feedback because there are a lot of children in the building, and their parents were glad that they wouldn't be exposed to secondhand smoke," she said. "A certain population within the building smoked, and they were resistant to the change."
Since those who violated the law were subject to a $50 fine or eviction, few tenants continued to smoke in the building and common areas after the rule change, Richardson-De Almeida said.
The ban has created a healthier environment and reduced building maintenance costs, she said, noting, "My family is moving toward doing this at all of our buildings."
The coalition's new initiative will offer information, training and tools to help condominium owners' associations and apartment owners implement 100 percent smoke-free living environments in their complexes, Zysman said.
"Creating smoke-free environments is a healthy choice that protects families and children," she said. "It is legal, the majority of people in Hawaii want it and it ultimately saves landlords and owners money."