Step 3: Drafting your smoke-free policy

To draft a policy that works for your building, you will need to consider and spell out exactly who will be bound by the policy, where it will apply, what will be regulated, when it will come into effect and how it will be enforced.

As you begin developing the policy itself, you must decide who will be bound under the policy, where the policy will be in force, what the policy will prohibit and when it will come into effect.

Download a sample condo bylaw.

Once you have a good working draft of your smoke-free policy, consider inviting stakeholders - particularly residents - to participate in a session to practice living in a smoke-free building.

Download a sample outline for a practice session.

To whom will your smoke-free policy apply?

Some smoke-free policies apply to all new and existing residents, whereas others exempt current residents who smoke. While incorporating an exemption clause into your smoke-free policy may be the least confrontational approach, it is challenging to implement.

Exemption clauses create a lengthy limbo period when new residents are subjected to the policy while still not reaping the benefits of a smoke-free environment because exempted residents are still exposing them to second-hand smoke. This can make it harder to attract new owners or tenants who are truly seeking smoke-free housing. And property managers will still have to spend time and money addressing complaints of second-hand smoke exposure.

If you know there are owners or other residents currently smoking in areas that you would like to make smoke-free, you may want to negotiate with them to come up with the best possible policy that at least 75% of owners can agree to and support.

Things to consider when engaging residents who currently smoke

  • Do you know for certain that owners who currently smoke, or who have tenants who currently smoke, would oppose a smoke-free policy?
    • Some smokers welcome smoke-free policies either because they already choose to only smoke outside or they see it as an incentive to cut back on smoking and improve their quality of life. Don’t assume they will fight a policy without having a conversation about it.
  • Could you agree on a designated outdoor smoking area? How could you make that space more comfortable or easier for users to access?
  • Could you agree on a phased-in approach, such as an exemption period that lasts one or two years?
  • Could you partner with local public health agencies to provide services and support to residents who are trying to quit smoking?

Regardless of the decision on exemptions, a smoke-free policy should always apply to residents, staff and service personnel working in the smoke-free building or grounds. Visitors and guests would also be expected to comply. The policy should indicate that owners and residents are responsible for advising their visitors and guests about where they can and cannot smoke.

In a situation where a resident’s addiction to nicotine has been deemed to be a disability, a condo corporation would be obligated to make reasonable accommodation for them. Any accommodation, however, would be at the discretion of the condo board given that each such situation is unique. Accommodation does not mean exemption and should not result in a situation where the resident is permitted to continually expose other residents to second-hand smoke.

Where will your smoke-free policy apply?

A smoke-free policy can apply to several different spaces on a condominium property, including inside individual units, on patios, balconies and in outdoor recreational spaces. Some smoke-free policies designate one or two specific outdoor spaces where smoking is allowed, or they may require people to leave property grounds altogether before lighting up.

When determining which areas will be included in your smoke-free policy, consider the size of your property and the way it is used. If you have logged resident complaints about second-hand smoke exposure, consider the spaces that would need to be addressed to mitigate those issues. If possible, keep designated smoking areas away from recreational spaces that are meant for all residents to enjoy.

It is also important when developing a smoke-free policy to ensure it aligns with the requirements of current tobacco-control legislation. The Alberta Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act prohibits smoking in any structure or other enclosed common area of a multi-unit residential facility to which members of the public have access, including common patios, pools, other recreation areas and enclosed parking garages. The Act also prohibits smoking within five meters of a doorway, air intake or window that can be opened. Designated smoking areas should not infringe upon spaces designated as smoke-free by law.

If designated smoking areas are included in your smoke-free policy, have signage indicating that the area is a smoking area and have a clearly marked ashtray to safely dispose of butts in order to discourage litter and avoid fires. Conversely, remove any ashtrays currently located in spaces where smoking is banned to minimize confusion.

What will be regulated as part of your smoke-free policy?

Carefully consider and include a clear definition of what will be regulated in your smoke-free policy. Some housing providers have expressed serious issues arising from residents using a range of smoking products, including herbal cigarettes, marijuana, pipes and waterpipes. Unclear definitions may not
fully cover the scope of products causing concern.

The following comprehensive definition should cover any loopholes or unforeseen issues of second-hand smoke exposure. This definition would not prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes as they do not involve burning or the emission of smoke. If you want your smoke-free policy to have a different scope, you may want to have a lawyer draft a definition that will suit your needs.

Sample definition: ‘Smoke’ or ‘Smoking’ means to inhale, exhale, burn, or have control over a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, hookah pipe, or other lighted smoking implement designed to burn tobacco or any other weed or substance for the purpose of inhaling or tasting of its emissions.

Marijuana and electronic cigarettes

Exposure to marijuana smoke can be a hot-button issue in multi-unit housing.

Regardless of whether marijuana is being smoked legally or illegally, the second-hand smoke emitted is still a health hazard and consideration for other residents is still important. A medical prescription to use marijuana does not give a person the right to smoke anywhere they choose. The user must abide by the rules of a smoke-free policy. By developing a smoke-free policy that is inclusive of products like marijuana, housing providers can eliminate any confusion on this issue.

Electronic smoking devices (ESDs; e.g., e-cigarettes or vaporizers) are relatively new and unregulated products in Canada. Currently, ESDs that contain nicotine are not permitted for use or sale by Health Canada and there is limited data on the health effects of their emissions, especially in the case of second-hand exposure. What is emitted from an ESD is not smoke and is currently understood to be significantly less harmful than tobacco smoke.

If you want to ban the use of ESDs on your property, you should consult with a lawyer to draft an effective policy and definition. Some ESDs may gain approval by Health Canada as regulated smoking-cessation devices in the future. Consider exempting any products that are government approved and regulated for use as cessation tools.

For more information on electronic smoking devices, please contact the Canadian Cancer Society or another health authority.

When will your smoke-free policy take effect?

Timing is critical to the successful implementation of a smoke-free policy. Start engaging owners and residents early in the process of developing your policy and give them ample time to adjust before your policy comes into effect. You may choose to implement your policy in phases, starting with individual units and progressively incorporating outdoor spaces. Whatever your plan, be sure to clearly communicate your timelines with all stakeholders who will be affected.

Choosing an implementation date in the spring or summer gives residents some time to adjust to smoking outside while the weather is favourable.

How will your policy be enforced?

Each condo corporation is authorized and required to stipulate any sanctions for bylaw infractions within the bylaws themselves. Your bylaws may already include detailed options and procedures for sanctions to any and all bylaw infractions. If they don’t, you will want to be sure to include sanctions related to your new smoke-free policy in your resolution to pass the new bylaw.

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