Clean Air

Key Topics


There has been great progress made in the development of laws across Canada to protect people from exposure to second-hand smoke in workplaces and public places. As well, there is now legislation in most jurisdictions across Canada that bans smoking in the common areas of multi-unit residential dwellings (MUDs).

However, there is currently no legislative body in Canada that has addressed the issue of adults smoking in their own homes when the smoke affects other people in neighbouring homes. This is a major problem for many Canadians who live in MUDs, and is a serious public health hazard that needs to be addressed.

A by-product of increasing smoke-free legislation across the country seems to be a huge leap in the public understanding of the danger of second-hand smoke. Hotels have been providing separate smoking and non-smoking floors for decades, and two major chains have recently become 100% smoke-free. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the majority of Canadians do not smoke, the housing sector has been slow in responding to the increasing public demand for smoke-free accommodation. There is still a hesitation to deal with smoke that infiltrates the private homes of others. Living smoke-free should not be considered a luxury afforded only to those who purchase single-family detached homes.

A MUD is defined as any type of building containing more than one residential unit, and includes:

  • Multi-unit apartment buildings
  • Condominiums
  • Townhouses
  • Duplexes
  • Semi-detached houses
  • Basement suites

Second-hand smoke can travel from one residence to another through various sources such as:

  • open windows and outdoor patios and balconies
  • electrical outlets, cable or phone jacks, ceiling fixtures
  • heating and air conditioning ducts and ventilation systems
  • cracks and gaps around sinks, countertops, windows, doors, floors, walls, ceilings
  • off-gassing of objects, including furniture, carpets and drapes

Extent of the Problem

At present, there is very little data on second-hand smoke in MUDs, and this makes it difficult to determine exactly how extensive the problem is. However, there have been two studies conducted in Canada that prove the problem is real, and there is significant demand for smoke-free housing.

In British Columbia, the Clean Air Coalition of BC commissioned BC Stats to conduct a survey of renters living in multi-unit dwellings across the province in February and March 2006. Findings include:

  • 35% of renters living in townhouses or duplexes and 31% of renters living in apartments or condominiums reported occasions when the smell of tobacco smoke drifted into their personal living space.
  • For those that reported drifting smoke as an issue, 53% of these renters said it happens "often", 29% said it happens "very often" and 24% said it happens "somewhat often".
  • 79% who reported drifting smoke said the smell bothers them; and 40% said it bothers them "a lot"

In Ontario, the Ontario Tobacco-Free Network commissioned Ipsos Reid to conduct a survey in March and November 2006. Highlights of the findings include:

  • A majority (64%) of all multi-unit dwellers would likely choose a smoke-free building over one where smoking is permitted
  • Almost half (46%) have had tobacco smoke odour enter their unit in the past 12 months from somewhere else in their building
  • The tobacco smoke odour usually seeps in primarily via the hallways (47%), windows (41%), shared ventilation (21%), air leaks(18%) and through bathroom or kitchen fans (13%)
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) would support a smoking ban in their multi-unit dwelling

**Some of the information in this section was taken from documents created by the Non-Smokers Rights Association - When Neighbours Smoke.