Providing safe and affordable housing should include ensuring an environment free from involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke.  To protect the health of vulnerable people, it is critical that social housing providers take a lead role in creating smoke-free housing.

Developing smoke-free housing policies in social housing involves a similar process as private rentals.  Extra care should be taken during the implementation process  to ensure that all residents and staff understand and respect the policy.  Sometimes this is done through community meetings, brochures, and good signage.   It is especially critical for people to understand that smokers can still live in social housing but under a smoke-free policy, they will not be able to smoke inside the building (i.e. they can still smoke outside.)

Why smoke-free policies in social housing?
  • For many tenants, social housing providers are the landlord of last resort. These are tenants with limited means. Families wait years to secure a subsidized unit, only to find themselves and their families involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Many social housing tenants also experience disability and chronic disease and are especially susceptible to second-hand smoke exposure.
  • Social housing should be a clean and safe environment for residents.
Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA)

In June 2009 ONPHA published an “Info On” document entitled “Smoke-Free Multi-Residential Apartment Buildings.” This analysis document will be of use to those non-profits considering a no-smoking policy.

To access the document, you must be an ONPHA member. Log onto the members’ section of the ONPHA website and search for it by name.

Enforcement

Generally, eviction should only be a last resort measure after all other avenues have failed.

To avoid eviction and to ensure compliance, we suggest setting up a system of progressive enforcement that begins with a notification that the tenant has violated the policy and potentially ends with an eviction order.

For example:

  • send a friendly written reminder clarifying the no-smoking policy on the first breach of
  • send a warning letter after the second breach (and x additional breaches) of the policy
  • hold one or more meetings with the resident violating the policy to discuss the problem and to explore possible solutions
  • follow up with a letter clearly summarizing the content of the meeting
  • discuss possible accommodations. For example, team up with your local public health unit to provide smoking cessation information and support

If formal action is needed, smoke-free policies are enforced under the Residential Tenancies Act using sections such as ‘Reasonable Enjoyment’. Second-hand smoke has been identified as a breach of reasonable enjoyment in several cases that have been heard by the Landlord and Tenant Board. Please see Smoking, Second-Hand Smoke and the Landlord and Tenant Board: Observations from 2010 – 2014

In past cases at the Landlord and Tenant Board, adjudicators have accepted evidence in the form of log books detailing the dates and times that second-hand smoke infiltrated another apartment, in addition to testimony from third parties confirming the smell of second-hand smoke and its impact on health and well-being.

Please see our  legal   and  enforcement  sections  for information.

Support for tenants who smoke

Most smokers would like to quit smoking. Very few adults “choose” to smoke. The vast majority of smokers start smoking as children or adolescents, before they know the risks of tobacco use and the addictive qualities of nicotine. A survey of adult smokers from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia found near universal regret about having started smoking.

Check out our cessation section, and contact your local public health unit to find out if they might be interested in partnering with you to address smoking among tenants in social housing.

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