Step 1: Assessing your situation

Passing a smoke-free bylaw in cooperative housing requires member support, which will require knowledge and preparation. Before you even begin drafting a bylaw, gain a clear understanding of the situation you are facing. Every community will be different.

Setting yourself up for success

The purpose of this step is to gather data so you can make informed decisions regarding smoke-free policy development. Properly assessing your situation, such as determining the extent of the problem and determining factors that may help or hinder your smoke-free policy implementation, will help you come to a solution.

Any member of a housing cooperative can propose a new bylaw as a resolution at a members’ meeting unless the current bylaws stipulate otherwise. Each cooperative has the right to define its own bylaw amendment process, but the default (and likely simplest) process requires a majority of members to vote in favour of a bylaw. Building support will require groundwork in understanding the frequency and impact of second-hand smoke migration, so plan to increase buy-in for the issue over time and be prepared to address concerns and opposition.

A great first step is understanding the benefits and incentives and legal implications of a smoke-free building. You will also need to research your specific building and determine how owners and residents feel about the issue. If migrating second-hand smoke is a problem in your building, it would be important to know the extent of that problem. This may require data collection in the form of a survey or multiple one-on-one conversations. Be sure to read Step 2: Engaging members and other relevant stakeholders before planning any data collection that involves reaching out to residents or other stakeholders.

During this assessment phase, book a meeting with your insurance company. Find out if they would offer you any discount on your property insurance if you implemented a smoke-free policy. Try to figure out how much money you would save in the long term both on insurance and on turnover costs by going smoke-free. Consider how you will communicate any potential cost savings as incentives for current owners to support the bylaw.


Conducting a survey

How are you currently tracking and managing complaints about second-hand smoke exposure? What does that data tell you? If you don’t have a good understanding of the extent of the issue or of the opinions of owners and residents, consider conducting a survey to gather more insight. Surveys can serve the dual purpose of alerting residents to a potential special resolution while demonstrating respect for their input at an early stage in the decision-making process.

Sending out a survey will evoke a reaction from those who would be strongly supportive of or opposed to any type of smoking restriction. Anticipate reactions and be prepared with your response. You may want to let them know that you value their input and provide some information on your rationale for looking into the issue.

Information to collect in a co-op member survey

  • Where smoking is currently taking place in the building
  • How often current residents are involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke
  • Where involuntary smoke exposure seems to be coming from
  • The level of resident support for a smoke-free policy
  • Which type of policy would be most supported (e.g.; including individual units, balconies or all grounds with a designated smoking area)

Download a sample member survey.

Encourage greater participation in your survey by offering an incentive such as a draw for a prize for all those who participate.

Seeking understanding

A smoke-free policy is not meant to ostracize any of your residents. Smoking can be a very powerful addiction. Many smokers may want to quit, but their addiction to nicotine is a significant barrier. Try to be considerate of these challenges and adopt a posture of understanding before you begin engaging residents who currently smoke.

Also, be prepared to listen to and understand people who will be affected by a smoke-free policy in other ways, including people with serious illnesses, disabilities or mobility issues, and people who use tobacco for religious purposes as many Indigenous people do.

While it is 100% legal to implement a smoke-free policy, all policy makers must understand their duty to accommodate groups that are protected under human rights legislation. Protected groups include persons with disabilities and individuals who use tobacco for religious purposes. Accommodation does not mean exemption from a smoke-free policy, but it does mean making an effort to find mutually agreeable solutions that do not expose other residents to secondhand smoke on an ongoing basis. For more information on protected groups and your duty to accommodate see the legal section and policy development section of our FAQs.

arrow-tothetop2to the top