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Editorial: Lighting up, and moving out

Smoking, to put it mildly, is unpopular among non-smokers at the best of times. Imagine, then, that you’re a non-smoker with chronic breathing problems like COPD, asthma and pulmonary hypertension. And, you live in an apartment unit across a hallway from someone who smokes in theirs. 

That’s the situation Blanche Wells finds herself in at Hiscock Manor, a seniors complex in Corner Brook. Her 71-year-old neighbour occasionally smokes his cigarettes inside his apartment, which can aggravate Wells’ breathing problems.

Wells isn’t begrudging her neighbour his habit, necessarily. Rather, she takes issue with the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Association, which owns Hiscock Manor. Trouble is, the housing association grandfathered in tenants who smoked inside their units — including Wells’ neighbour — back in 2009 when a smoke-free policy came into effect. Wells is even willing to move if the association can find her a suitable location.

Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to say now that the NL Housing Association shouldn’t have agreed to grandfather in certain tenants in the first place. The decision was made, and reversing it now opens the door to a whole new set of problems.

What the association can make good on now is its responsibility to its tenant, and it ought to do so as soon as possible. What may only be a nuisance to some could potentially be the difference between life and death for Wells if she were to have a serious reaction to the cigarette smoke.

That she’s been on a waiting list for a new unit that will suit her needs since 2014 simply isn’t quick enough in this situation.

It may create some disruption and jockeying to accommodate Wells’ move immediately, but it would be far from the trouble that could occur if she stays put.

The housing association would be wise to address the issue head-on — something it probably should have done back in 2009 — before things go up in smoke.

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