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Tacoma Group Wants To Limit Smoking In Apartments

Ruby de Luna

Say you live in an apartment, your neighbor is a smoker and the secondhand smoke bothers you. You take the issue to the building manager but there's not much that can be done about it. A Tacoma group wants to change that by amending a state law.


Nan Hogan knows the effects of secondhand smoke. Her parents were smokers. As an adult she became susceptible to respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma. She took care to avoid places that had secondhand smoke. Then one day a new tenant moved into the apartment building in West Tacoma where she and her husband lived. The tenant moved into the unit below Hogan. She was a chain smoker. Hogan says that's when she noticed the smoke had permeated through the ceiling and vents. Her respiratory problems returned. So she went to the apartment manager.

Hogan: "And the management tried everything. They brought out a team to cover every aperture in the apartment. They put the foam inserts behind the electrical outlets. They plugged everything they could find and it really didn't mitigate the secondhand smoke odors at all."

Hogan says that was all the manager could do. Hogan is a co–founder of the group PUSH, People United for Smoke–Free Housing. The group wants to amend the state Landlord Tenant Act. The proposal would add secondhand smoke as a nuisance, a reason for eviction. Hogan says the amendment would give tenants some protection.

Hogan: "As I experienced in my case, I didn't have any rights to my own health and to my own personal enjoyment of the property that I was paying $1,000 for."

PUSH hopes to get support from state lawmakers when the Legislature convenes in January. In the meantime, the group is trying to get backing from the Tacoma–Pierce County Health Board. Critics say the amendment would take away landlords' rights who on their own could make their apartments smoke free if they choose. Some health officials support the principle. But they also worry it could unfairly affect minorities and low income people who tend to be renters.

I'm Ruby de Luna, KUOW News.

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