The Middlesex-London Health Unit is getting ready to make a push for smoke-free apartment complexes.

It’s a movement that has been picking up speed in Ontario and has been spearheaded largely by the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association and the Ontario Coalition for Smoke-Free Housing.

The local effort ‘ expected to hit the public eye this fall ‘ comes as Drewlo Holdings swings the doors open on what it’s billing as the first smoke-free complex in London.

Linda Stobo, program manager for chronic disease prevention and tobacco control at the health unit, worked with Drewlo on its development at 70 Capulet Ln.

Since no one at the provincial or local level keeps stats on smoke-free housing units, there’s no way to know if Drewlo Holdings really is a pioneer in the Forest City. It is, however, the only one the Health Unit knows about.

“If there are other (smoke-free) units out there or other property management groups interested in (going smoke-free) … we encourage them to contact us,” Stobo said.

But, she added, one thing is certain ‘ demand is increasing for cleaner high-rise air.

“We have been talking to other property management groups that have been exploring (the idea of) transitioning (older properties) or making new developments smoke-free,” Stobo said.  

The interest comes as people become more and more aware about the dangers of old news, like second-hand smoke, and something that’s a bit newer on the cancer-causing list: The residue left over after smoke evaporates, called third-hand smoke.

Since cigarette smoke drifts through practically everything in an apartment complex ‘ including light fixtures and electrical outlets ‘ snubbing it out all together is the only way to keep people safe, Stobo said.

At the national level, the Non-Smokers’ Rights Association has been pushing the idea of non-smoking complexes for several years. The nonprofit has written procedures for landlords to follow if they are making the move and has published several case studies on companies building smoke-free units;. They are also behind smokefreehousingon.ca, which provides information about the issue.

Right now, the group is working at the grassroots level to rally support for the cause. Once there’s enough support, the issue could land in legislators’ laps, said Garfield Mahood, the association’s founding executive director.

“You’re seeing more and more work being done on this by the health units across Canada,” Mahood said. “This is definitely one of our hottest issues. One of the most active files in tobacco-control today.”

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