API Online

April 20, 2011

Apartment smoking should be banned

It was with great excitement that I read a news story this week about the possibility of smoking being banned in apartment blocks.


It was reported that an eight-unit apartment block in western Sydney introduced a by-law making the premises, including balconies, completely smoke-free.

It’s believed to be the first time such a ban has been imposed on an apartment block, but the Cancer Council of South Australia is predicting it won’t be the last.

People want more smoke-free areas due to increased awareness of the risks of secondhand smoke, says Professor Brenda Wilson, chief executive of SA’s Cancer Council.

“(The) fact remains that secondhand smoke is harmful,” she was reported as saying. “The level of exposure can determine a person’s risk and you could imagine many would like to have the choice that their home be a safe haven – something that poses quite a challenge in a shared setting such as apartment blocks.”

I used to live in an apartment where secondhand smoke was a daily issue.

My unit was on the first floor and the residents of the unit downstairs would sit outside every night (and probably during the day, but I was never home) and smoke, and really, they may as well have been smoking inside my unit. The smoke would waft right up into my living room. Not only in my living room, it also wafted into my bedroom, because there was a sliding door leading to my balcony that I liked to keep open in that room too.

The only thing you can really do in this situation to keep the smoke out is shut all the doors and windows. Now is that really fair to force someone to do that? I can go out and not have to be subjected to smoke due to laws banning smoking in public, so why should I have to put up with it in my own home?

There were other issues with these same downstairs neighbours when I lived in a unit and one in particular was noise, given that they were prone to having parties. I’m prepared to put up with noise because I think it’s something that can’t be avoided when you live in such close proximity and I am certainly not innocent in that department, having most certainly been guilty of keeping my neighbours up in my younger, partying days.

But smoke is quite another issue, given that it has the potential to either make someone very, very ill, or yes, even kill them. And that’s why I think it most certainly should be banned. In fact, I think banning it is a fantastic idea – the best I’ve heard in a long time.

There are arguments out there, especially from the heads of civil liberty councils, that people should be free to do whatever they want inside their own home and that body corporates shouldn’t have the power to dictate what people are entitled to do within their own lot.

“It’s a slippery slope,” the head of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties Cameron Murphy was reported as saying. “If an owners corporation doesn’t like people cooking because it doesn’t like the smell of cooking wafting from apartment to apartment, will they ban it? Drinking coffee, what you do in the bedroom… will they ban that?”

To put it simply, I think this is ridiculous talk. All body corporates have rules already, such as ‘no pets’, so how is adding something like ‘no smoking’ to those rules really impinging on civil liberties? Everyone knows that when you live in a unit there will be some restrictions and rules you must abide by. I don’t think it’s asking too much to refrain from potentially fatal activities.

Banning smoking in unit blocks would also be extremely beneficial for those with investment properties that are units.

I was recently looking for tenants for my property and was hoping they wouldn’t notice the smoke wafting from downstairs, because surely that would put anyone off. I’m sure if they noticed it, it would detract from the attractiveness of my property.

Another concern I had was that I’d have someone living in my unit who was a smoker. It’s certainly not preferable to me, because I think it’s really difficult to get the smell out of the property. Even if people smoke outside, I think it still wafts inside and gets into everything. If the body corporate was to ban smoking, that’s one less thing I’d have to worry about in terms of damage to my property.

What are your thoughts on this contentious issue? Do you think body corporates should be allowed to ban smoking? And for those with units as investments, would it be something you would welcome, or do you think it could potentially turn tenants off?

Vanessa De Groot is the deputy editor of Australian Property Investor magazine, www.apimagazine.com.au


  1. I think its a great idea to ban smoking. Im a owner occupier for a unit, and im sick of seeing cigarette buds all over our block, because some filthy tenant doesnt want to dispose of them correctly. Ive even found buds in and read pot plants, and i would support such a move.

    I certainly think it makes your property look less attractive when you have smoker-tenants.

    Comment by Fay — April 20, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  2. I most certainly feel this great excitement too. I have been contemplating how I could get a rule like this enacted in the apartment block that I live in, and feared all manner of legal complications with trying to bring it in. Now hearing that it has already been achieved in an apartment block in Sydney, means that any legal issues can be overcome. Best news ever!

    Comment by Ian — May 22, 2011 @ 8:07 am

  3. I live in a small block of 9. A new tenant moved in downstairs last weekend. Our once clean smelling block now stinks of cigarette smoke from top to bottom – it is entering most of the other apartments to one degree or another. One neighbour is having an allergic reaction and another has a baby who is showing signs of distress from the smoke. I think the tenant that moved in must be a chain smoker as we’ve never smelt anything like it before – we are guessing maybe 60 day….

    We, the owners, are angry. The tenant and the owner of the unit say “too bad”. As Owners, we are meeting with Strata next week to begin the task of passing a bylaw to ban smoking in our block. We will take the owner of the unit to court if we have to.

    Comment by Jeda — July 20, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

  4. Wow, Jeda, this sounds like a terrible situation! Please let us know how you fare with passing the bylaw – it would be really interesting to know whether you’re successful and I think many others might follow suit if you are!

    I really think this is an issue that we have to tackle head on and I also think it may go a long way to preventing people from smoking – much more so than the government’s plain packaging plan.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Vanessa De Groot — July 21, 2011 @ 10:16 am

  5. I think that if everyone wants to push to ban something that is completly legal then you need to push for the government to make smoking illegal full stop. Smokers rarely complain or kick up a fuss when they get treated like criminals for having a habit that is perfectly legal. I have no issues with banning smoking in appartments but I think it’s time everyone got off the smokers backs until it is made illegal. Why not ban drinking as well, I have know a few people whose life was lost to somebody being intoxicated, they were not a drinker them selves. Alcohol effects just as many lives second hand. So let’s ban that too. I have a neighbor that constantly cooks fish, my appartment and linen and curtains constantly stink due to their cooking, and during my pregnancy the smell had me up vomiting often, let’s ban that too.

    Comment by Kelly lea — May 24, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

  6. We have new neighbours who are chainsmokers. One of them seems to not be working and is around all day, most days. When I walk down my hallway at 6am in the morning, I always know when they are up – I can smell it clearly in my apartment. We have a young child.

    If they want to smoke and damage their own health, that’s fine, but I don’t believe they have a right to do it where it impinges on other people’s health. I find it ironic that we ban smoking in pubs, clubs and workplaces, but not when it effects us in our own homes.

    I think the thing with smokers is that they become inured to the smell of the smoke after a while and don’t realise just how much it effects non-smokers.

    We have been wracking our brains to come up with some sort of compromise we can approach them with – so far, nothing springs to mind. I wonder if they’ve given their actions a second thought …

    Comment by Anna-Lisa Whiting — October 31, 2012 @ 10:27 am

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