Distorting the Smoking Issue

October 2023

Should a building resident be allowed to smoke in their unit when that smoke leaves the unit and affects other residents in their units and hallways?  That is one dispute currently before the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) that captured the attention of long-time Toronto Star columnist Rose DiManno.

Many look forward to Rosie DiManno’s perspective on issues of the day.  She gets it right most of the time.  Her July 11, 2023 column on smoking, however, presents a distorted view of one community struggling with the “rights” of one resident who is a serial smoker and danger to her neighbours.

As Ms. DiManno presents it, “A smoking gun is being held to the head of Diane Steen.”  The 87-year-old woman is being forced to “quit her filthy cigarette habit, or take it outside.”  She is in poor health, has limited mobility, and is unable to go downstairs or outside to smoke.  Ms. Steen has diabetes, suffers from severe anxiety and depression, and exhibits signs of cognitive decline.  The condo board adopted a new rule over a year ago prohibiting smoking in the building.  There is a grandfathering clause allowing current residents who smoke to continue “as long as their smoking doesn’t infringe on the enjoyment or health of anyone else around them.’’  Ms. Steen wants to remain in her home and not move to a care facility.

Efforts to contain the smoke have apparently failed.  This includes two industrial strength medical-grade HEPA filter systems at a cost of $2,000 each.

Residents complained of smoke in hallways whenever the door was opened which includes taking out trash and doing laundry.  The condo board undertook measures that include weekly air quality measurements, washing hallway walls, carpet cleaning and shampooing soft furniture.  They offered to install sealant around the doors and windows which was refused.  Legal costs to the corporation to deal with this matter have reached $20,000.

This situation is more than dealing with the right to smoke.  How safe are building residents when an elderly resident struggling with cognitive decline continues to be a danger to herself and others?  Does she fall asleep when smoking, drop matches or a lighter?  What about forgetting to turn off water or appliances?

A unit containing multiple air filtration systems and still unable to purify the air so that it does not impact neighbours who likely have health concerns or problems from being so near to her smoking is in itself a health concern.

Condominium living is not for everyone, and there comes a time when the safety and security concerns of the many outweigh the personal and bad habits of one individual.

Proceedings with CAT have been initiated and a final decision is pending.