Friday, March 28, 2014

Smoke Free At Last

Today is Friday, March 28, 2014.

This afternoon I got a notice shoved under my door by the apartment management, announcing that the apartment building where I live will become a smoke-free facility beginning on June 1, 2014. I was never so glad to see an announcement from the management in my life!  

When I moved into this place, the unit had been empty for over one year, and the gal who was managing had no idea who had lived in it before, but the other residents told me he smoked like a fiend.  I could tell.  The place definitely smelled like smoke, and it was noticeable to others, as well.  

I opened windows and filled decorative vases with charcoal to get rid of the smoke smell, and eventually, the place started to smell a little sweeter.  Unfortunately, there was still one person who lives two doors down from me who smokes so much that there is an air-freshener machine out in the hall just outside his door.  It doesn't help, though.  You can still smell his cigarettes as you pass his door in the hall.

When I realized that some of the residents are on oxygen, I kind of freaked out, realizing that if the smoker were careless and a fire was started that spread to the oxygen tanks, there would be an especially dangerous situation.  Fortunately, the apartment of the person on oxygen is on a different floor, and not right underneath the smoker.  Still... 

Maybe the smoker has given notice that he intends to move, or maybe the management just decided to get tough and ban smoking.  Whatever the situation, I am so glad that they have taken the bull by the horns and made a declaration in favor of non-smoking.  The new rules ban not only traditional cigarettes, cigars and pipes, but also e-cigarettes.  Good!  They didn't ban chewing tobacco, but I guess you have to take it one step at a time.  

Next week I intend to call my renter's insurance company and ask if there will be extra discounts available for a non-smoking residence.  (There were discounts for a sprinkler system, and I am still glad I followed up on that one.)

Smoke-free workplaces are a fairly new concept here in South Dakota.  The Smoke Free Law went into effect in 2009.  Opponents forced a referendum vote onto the ballot in 2010, obviously hoping to have the law struck down.   Instead, the voters approved the smoking ban, 64 to 36 percent. 

Part of the opposition was economic, and some of those fears have been realized.  South Dakota is a no-income-tax state, so they get revenue from gambling, which is a source of frustration for residents like me.  The smoking ban affected all bars, restaurants, and other public spaces, including state-run (but not tribal-run) casinos.  It appears, as of November 2013, that revenues are down for video lottery places.  Revenue for 2008 for the video lottery industry was $224.7 million.  In 2013 it was $176.6 million.  I can't say that I'm terribly upset about this.

The Sioux Falls chief of police said that as of November 2013, only five citations had been written for people smoking indoors in public places.  City planners say that opposition to the ban no longer comes up during planning for future city projects.   According to state demographics, only 15.4% of the residents of the state are smokers.  Dare I say they are a "dying" breed?  One thing is clear: they are no longer in control of public spaces, and soon they will no longer have any control in my private living space, either.

Is it legal for landlords to ban smoking in private apartments?  According to Change Lab website, which discusses "law and policy innovation for the common good," the answer is, "Yes. Landlords, condo associations, and local governments may legally restrict smoking in multi-unit housing. These restrictions do not discriminate against smokers or violate their right to privacy. For a more detailed discussion of this issue, see “There Is No Constitutional Right to Smoke."

It will take a while for the change to take effect, but I feel that it is a step in the right direction.  :-) 


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