Proposal to ban smoking in all apartments goes too far

Apartments are people's homes. And people should be free to smoke in their own homes.

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Smoking stinks. Literally. Smoking creates huge health problems in society, often causing premature deaths.

And these are just a few of the many reasons we have consistently backed efforts to reduce smoking and to ban smoking in public places, including office buildings.

But an effort to outlaw smoking in apartment complexes goes too far.

Apartments are people's homes. Folks should have the right to smoke in their home if they so choose.

The News Tribune of Tacoma reported that a group, People United for Smoke-Free Housing, asked the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Board to classify secondhand smoke as a "nuisance" in multi-unit housing. The group argued the smoke can seep from one apartment to another and bother other residents.

The proposal, which backers hope to have inserted into the state's landlord-tenant law, is one of dozens of attempts in communities around the country to extend no-smoking restrictions to rental housing, according to The Associated Press.

"This is the last piece of the puzzle that needs to be placed," said Nan Hogan, who helped write the proposed legislation. "We've got smoke-free motel rooms, smoke-free restaurants, smoke-free bars, smoke-free office buildings and even prisons. Why should we go home and have to breathe it there?"

All of the above mentioned - aside from motel rooms - are places in which non-smokers would have no choice but to be around smokers. It is for that reason it is right to ban smoking. In those places second-hand smoke simply can't be avoided.

As to the motel rooms, Hogan is wrong. The law does not mandate they be smoke free. That is a decision made by the owners of the motels. Most motels today are smoke free as a business decision. Non-smokers - and many smokers - prefer to stay in rooms where no smoking is allowed. Those rooms, well, smell better.

Some motels allow smoking and some have a few smoking rooms. Walk into one of those rooms by mistake and you know it is a smoking room even if it hasn't been occupied in a week.

Allowing smoking even on a room-by-room basis is, again, a business decision. Those who want to smoke in their rooms need a place to stay and these innkeepers are providing those rooms.

Those who own apartment buildings should be allowed to make those same business decisions. If property owners want to allow smoking that is their business.

Smokers who can't afford a home or don't want to own a home need somewhere to live. It's wrong for government to deny them access to an apartment simply because they smoke. Or as Gary Nolan, U.S. director of Citizens Freedom Alliance, says, "This is political correctness run amok."

We might not agree with him on other smoking issues, but on this one we are in sync.

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