Apartment owners put clamp on smokers

Cathy O’Leary, Medical Editor, The West Australian

A Scarborough apartment block has become smoke-free after residents introduced a strata bylaw outlawing smoking in common areas.

Residents at the Oceanside complex can smoke in their units but not in areas such as balconies, where smoke can drift into other units, or common space.

The council of owners received a small grant from the Australian Council on Smoking and Health to help with the costs of introducing the schedule two bylaw, phased in this year.

An ACOSH survey has shown that almost 60 per cent of people living in strata housing have been exposed to second-hand smoke inside their home. More than 80 per cent of strata managers had to manage “smoke drift” disputes in their properties in the previous 12 months.

Anthony James, who lives in the Oceanside complex with his wife Olivia Cheng and their son Yeshe, said the bylaw was not to vilify smokers but to improve the living environment for all residents.

“A few tenants had been smoking and a spate of complaints had come in,” Mr James said.

“We had been forced to put cardboard across the vents in our apartment and always keep the windows shut.

“The intent was never to ‘have a go’ at smokers. We wanted to create places where they could smoke but just not in a way that impacted on others.”

ACOSH spokesman Maurice Swanson said introducing bylaws was a partial solution but it was time-consuming and invariably involved lawyers.

He said the ideal solution was for the State Government to amend the Strata Titles Act to cover outdoor smoking.

“It would mean each strata entity wouldn’t have to introduce their own bylaw,” he said.

“Reforms are also needed for government-owned housing because the prevalence of smoking is higher there compared to apartment housing generally.”