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Ban smoking in condos?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis November 12, 2012 08:10 AM

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Here's a no-brainer: Ban smokers from lighting up inside their condos. And not just for the nuisance of secondhand smoke, but also for the very real risk that a carelessly disposed cigarette could spark a tragic fire.

Smokers are on the run, banned from restaurants, bars, offices and a growing list of other public places.

Yet many smokers are still free to light up in condos and apartments, not to mention single-family homes, putting countless others at risk.

But the days in which smokers can light up in condos and apartments may be numbered.

A growing number of condo associations in Greater Boston and across the country are weighing rules that would ban smoking in individual units. The same is true for apartment building owners.

Secondhand smoke is serious - no knock on that argument. However, the risk of fire is an often overlooked reason why smoking should be absolutely unacceptable in multifamily buildings, whether it's a condo development or an apartment complex.

More people die each year in fires sparked by smokers than for any other cause, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's about a thousand people a year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. A third of those killed were children of the smokers, while a quarter were neighbors and friends.

Estimates on property damage are also astronomical - well over a half a billion, according to a 2007 estimate.

So even if you escape with your life you could find main investment - condo - completely ruined.

Here's a story out of Plymouth on just such a case.

We don't let people drive without seat belts anymore - there is obviously a well-proven correlation between driving unbelted and dying in a car accident. Nor do we let people drive drunk.

For that matter, more sophisticated fire alarm systems are also mandatory now inside homes, apartments and condos.

So why let smokers light up inside their units, putting not only their own lives, but that of their neighbors, at risk?

OK, it can be a tricky legal area - the legal writ of condo associations is mainly limited to common areas. But some big downtown condo buildings have already rolled out bans and others are likely to follow.

Generally, three-quarters of all members of a condo association have to vote in favor of a ban.

At the very least, condo associations should be required to spell out their rules on smoking so prospective buyers can decide for themselves.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is moving in that direction. Kudos to him.

OK, I cop to being a former smoker, so that may explain my being somewhat over-the-top here.

But I also covered my share of house fires during my younger newspaper days as a beat reporter. It's not great way to go. 

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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