Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Friday, December 3, 1999

Neighbor blows
smoke at complaints

Question: I live in a condo where our front doors are very close to each other. My neighbor is a chain smoker who leaves her door open so that the smoke comes into our unit. I know smokers have rights, but what about those of us who don't smoke? I wrote a letter to her, and the resident manager called her about the problem. She closed her door for awhile, but has opened it again. She was notified twice, but it did not do any good. What other solutions are there? Can we get her evicted?

Answer: Your problem is growing more common as people live closer together and as more become aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke, said Julian Lipsher, head of the state Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Awareness Project.

But resolving the problem is another matter.

"There is no quick fix to this," Lipsher said.

For one thing, most people don't want government telling you what you can and can't do in your own home, he said.

So, although a city ordinance prohibits smoking in the common or public areas of commercial and residential buildings, there is nothing preventing you from smoking in your unit.

According to Lipsher, the three most common complaints about smoking in apartment buildings involve someone smoking on the lanai, with smoke going into an upper or adjoining unit; smoke traveling in an air duct to another unit; or someone smoking and leaving their door open, allowing smoke to drift into the hallway.

"In any of these three situations, you're not breaking the law," he said. Call his office, 586-4613, and staff will share "reasonable strategies" to try to resolve the problem.

The first is "to kindly, politely share their concern" with the smoker. If that doesn't work, take the matter to your condominium board or tenants association, "not to come to a quick resolution, because there is no quick resolution," but "as a matter of awareness," Lipsher said.

It may be that other tenants share your concerns.

Another option, but only if the other party is willing to participate, is to let the Neighborhood Justice Center mediate.

The state Real Estate Commission receives many complaints about smoking, as well as about other nuisance odors, such as from cooking, car exhaust from parking lots, and from New Year's Eve fireworks, said supervising executive officer Calvin Kimura.

It might make a difference if the smoker is the apartment owner or tenant, he said.

More and more, rental agreements prohibit the tenant from smoking, he noted.

But because there is no case law regarding a smoking situation like yours, Kimura's advice is the same as Lipsher's -- take it first to the resident manager or condo association, then to mediation. If those options don't work, "then we're talking legal battle," Kimura said.

But this issue "is not just one person against another," he said. It's a health and community issue that may have to involve educating everyone about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

More Santas on parade

The city has given us a couple more Christmas parades to add to your lists:

Bullet Tomorrow, 9 a.m., Kaneohe Business Group: Haiku Road/Kamehameha Highway through Kaneohe town, left on Kaneohe Bay Drive, ending at Castle High School.

Bullet Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Kapahulu Moiliili Lions Club/Moiliili Business Merchants parade: From Kuhio School, on King to Beretania, then to Isenberg Street, ending at Old Stadium Park.

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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