I’m fairly certain that you haven’t given the thought of second-hand smoke affecting your health in your retirement years. Unless, of course, you are a smoker yourself, that is. Odds are also fairly certain that when you made retirement plans affecting your downsizing options you may have chosen a multiple-living dwelling vs a stand-alone, single dwelling. The perils of second-hand smoke never once entered into your equation of retirement planning.
Neither did it for my husband or myself. So, imagine our disbelief when three months after taking possession of our unit, in a brand-newly built condominium complex, when we started smelling the stink of cigarette smoke wafting up through our walls. Unbeknownst to us, despite witnessing and confirming stringent, solid construction laws on our new abode, 70% of all air floating through multiple-family dwellings is shared. If you think you’re safe from the perils of inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke simply because you are living in a single, stand-alone dwelling, think again. Most times, single dwellings are built twelve feet apart. So, if your neighbor decides to light up on his or her balcony or backyard, if the wind is blowing your way, you’re going to be inhaling smoke that contains over 4,000 carcinogens.
There is only one way to protect yourself from the perils of second-hand smoke and that is to live inside a smoke-free environment. Most states have (thankfully) passed non-smoking laws in public places BUT these laws oftentimes do not include the governing of what people can and can not do inside their very own private living quarters. DH and I are from New York, so we are a bit spoiled. New York has banned smoking in all public places, public work areas, parks, beaches and recently inside apartments and condos of both state-owned residences AND any multiple-family dwellings.
Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. … Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be dangerous. Inhaling secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in nonsmoking adults. … Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause coronary heart disease and have negative effects on your blood and blood vessels, increasing your risk of a heart attack. For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels. It is estimated that secondhand smoke caused nearly 34,000 heart disease deaths each year during 2005–2009 among adult nonsmokers in the United States.
I’m not going to bore you, my reader, with the frustrating efforts my husband and I have been going through this past year since we took possession of our new retirement condo. I don’t blame ourselves for what happened to us because it can happen to anybody. We just didn’t think about the possibility of second-hand smoke permeating through the building. But I will tell you this, that unless another human being is experiencing the same exact thing you are, there is no compassion. Our building houses 30 families. Unfortunately the two individuals who smoke in our building live below DH and myself. They start smoking at 5AM in the morning and continue, at times, throughout the day till 2AM. If they are sitting in their living room smoking, our living room above them fills with cigarette smoke. If they want to smoke in bed, our bedroom is right above them and it fills up with the stench of cigarette smoke. The smoke comes up through the walls.
We keep our windows open, exhaust fans on high, but there is no escape. Should they have guests over, who are also smokers, we literally choke to death and can not breathe. When I approached my two neighbors, they actually lied to my face and told me they did not smoke. Can you imagine? No other person in our building is affected by their second-hand smoke. So, because there is only one complainant, us, the rest of our fellow neighbors have fought us every step of the way to convert our building into a smoke free environment. We did manage to have The Board enforce a non-smoking rule in the common areas around the building (no smoking in hallways, front and back walkways, elevators and lanais) as of January 1, 2018. As a result, the rest of the building occupants have sworn to get this new rule reversed because they ‘don’t want anyone telling them what to do or how to live‘!
Never mind that inhaling second-hand smoke kills infants, children and the elderly.
To be fair, Florida, the state where our retirement condo is located, has enforced a few non-smoking laws. I’ve been in close contact with The Department Of Health as whole teams have been recently established to help eliminate second-hand smoke throughout the state. Last year all smoking has been banned in state-owned public housing. If you’re caught smoking, you’re quickly evicted. A few construction companies have caught on to the new non-smoking trend and non-smoking condos/apartments are being built. 87% of Floridians do not smoke and of those people, almost all of them want to eliminate the dangers people can incur from inhaling second-hand smoke.
Our complex, which provides all types of housing to thousands of home owners, just recently banned smoking from inside ALL community buildings and 50 feet from the external side of the buildings. There is absolutely NO smoking in any community common areas. They have not or can not stop anyone from smoking inside their own homes and that is a shame.
After a year, DH and I have exhausted whatever simple actions human beings can take in this time and era to protect ourselves from the perils of inhaling second-hand smoke. (DH has been President of The Board this past year BUT will NOT be re-enlisting. His term ends in March) Our only option (so we thought) is to move. But there is NO guarantee that our next living arrangement will be free from second-hand smoke, unless we move into an established smoke free environment. Good luck with that! DH and I did go on a house hunting adventure this past week and came to a different conclusion. Why should WE move? We’re not the smokers. We’re not making anyone else’s life miserable. We’re not endangering any one else’s health. So, I called back some of the health connections that I made and got a few leads on retaining legal counsel.
DH and I are seriously thinking of commencing a lawsuit against the smoking violators AND if we do, we will probably win in court. Smokers have absolutely no rights. They are a nuisance and a menace to society. It’s a disgusting, habitual, addictive habit.
DH and I have come to the conclusion that we LOVE our new home and we are going to fight to remain here. Of the 100 qualities our home is known for, 99 of them are positive. One thing (and it’s a major thing) is standing in our way of happiness.
There is no such thing as a legal “right to smoke.” Residents are entitled to breathe clean, smokefree air at home. The Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida has identified more than 1,130 multi-unit properties, more than 186,000 smokefree housing units, and 66 condos in the state that are smokefree.
Wish us luck.