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Smoking ban sought for multi-unit housing

Mon., Aug. 30, 2010

TACOMA – The fight over smoking restrictions in Washington state has moved from bars and office buildings to private residences.

A group called People United for Smoke-Free Housing has asked the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Board to classify secondhand smoke as a “nuisance” in multi-unit housing because smoke can seep from one apartment to another and bother other residents, the News Tribune reported. That could allow landlords to evict people for smoking.

The proposal, which backers hope to have inserted into the state’s landlord-tenant law, is one of dozens of attempts in communities around the country to extend no-smoking restrictions to rental housing.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle that needs to be placed,” said Nan Hogan, of University Place, who helped write the proposed legislation. “We’ve got smoke-free motel rooms, smoke-free restaurants, smoke-free bars, smoke-free office buildings and even prisons. Why should we go home and have to breathe it there?”

Opponents argue that such proposals are unnecessary because landlords can already declare their apartments smoke-free if they want to.

“This is political correctness run amok,” said Gary Nolan, U.S. director of the Citizens Freedom Alliance, which advocates for smokers’ rights. “They’re taking away the rights of the landlord.”

Under the proposal, PUSH says, tenants bothered by smoke could make complaints. Just as with other nuisances under the law – such as destroying property and using drugs – offenders could be given three days’ notice to move out. If they don’t move, the landlord can go to court and start an eviction process.

The state Department of Health says 86 percent of renters in Washington prefer smoke-free housing and 500 children younger than age 5 get asthma in the state every year from breathing secondhand smoke.

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