In the ongoing effort to limit the non-smoking public's exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke, municipal governments across the country are coming up with increasingly strict bans on smoking in public places—even on public streets and in parks in some communities. Perhaps not surprisingly, more and more condominium associations are following suit.
“I have worked with a number of associations to change the recorded covenants by unit owner approval to prohibit smoking on the property or most anywhere on the property,” says Arlington Heights–based attorney Charles T. VanderVennet, P.C. “Two associations I represent have put declaration amendments in place to ban smoking. One from the entire property and one from anywhere but on balconies—the terms of that association’s declaration would not allow the amendment to prohibit smoking on the balconies without also obtaining lender approval—a requirement that might not have been attainable.”
The surge of aversion to smoking in residential buildings is largely a reflection of changing attitudes toward cigarettes. About 20 percent of the population nationwide consider themselves smokers, and growing numbers of non-smokers are concerned about the health hazards of exposure to second-hand smoke. A 2006 Surgeon General’s report concluded that “there is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke.”
According to Lakeside Community Development Corporation, a non-profit housing and community development organization in Chicago, “Research shows 35%-65% of the air in any given unit is shared air from other units and common areas in most multifamily properties. That means residents living in buildings with smokers face heightened health risks, including heart attacks, stroke and lung cancer. Babies and children are more susceptible to secondhand smoke and are at a higher risk of SIDS, asthma attacks, ear infections and pneumonia.”
The Smoke Free Illinois Act went into effect on January 1, 2008 and bans smoking in most buildings and vehicles used by the general public. It also requires “no-smoking” signs, bans smoking within 15 feet of openings in targeted buildings and requires at least 75 percent of rooms in hotels to be designated non-smoking. A person who smokes in a prohibited area could be fined anywhere from $100 to $250.