Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for May 19, 2011

Smoking ban expected to cut repair, cleaning costs

The Yukon Housing Corp. (YHC) has decided to convert all of its housing to non-smoking buildings.

By Will Johnson on May 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

Dr. Brendan Hanley

The Yukon Housing Corp. (YHC) has decided to convert all of its housing to non-smoking buildings.

“We thought this was a good time to make the transition,” Shona Mostyn, the corporation’s director of housing operations, told the Star Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve got about 100 new units about to go online, so we figured we can start with a clean slate.”

All current residents will be provided with a grace period until Jan. 1, 2012, at which point they will no longer be allowed to smoke inside their residences.

Any new tenants will be required to keep their units smoke-free effective immediately.

The decision was made due to the increased risk of fire, higher maintenance costs and the known health effects of exposure to second-hand smoke.

The YHC recently had a fire in one of its units. It did not destroy the entire unit, but was “significant,” said Mostyn.

“We suspect that the fire was a direct result of smoking,” she said.

She feels it’s about time the YHC started an initiative like this.

“We’re not exactly on the cutting edge here,” said Mostyn.

Many owners and landlords in Whitehorse already maintain smoke-free residences, she noted.

Before making this decision, the YHC researched other jurisdictions pursuing similar initiatives. Staff found many are moving in the same direction, including Edmonton’s housing corporation, which suffered through a number of fires related to smoking.

Mostyn said the YHC anticipates a mixed reaction to the news.

She received her first call from a resident on Wednesday. The elderly tenant thanked her for the initiative, saying it had been a concern because of health issues he and his wife struggle with.

“There are a lot of people that will benefit from this,” she said.

However, Mostyn was quick to emphasize the YHC doesn’t intend to discriminate against residents based on their personal habits.

“We’re not trying to tell people they can or can’t smoke,” said Mostyn. “Of course, some people will want to continue to smoke in their residences. We know that.”

Mostyn said corporation staff won’t “police” residents.

Rather, they will view smoking as a violation of the lease and will respond to complaints. Eviction would only become an option after a lengthy process that would include warning letters.

“I want to assure existing tenants that no one is going to be evicted from housing simply because they are smokers as long as they accept and abide by the no-smoking policy,” she said.

She also emphasized that the YHC will never turn down a potential resident for being a smoker.

The new rule requires residents to smoke on their porches and balconies, where they’re available, and to stay at least five metres away from any shared entrances.

“I think this is a great way to support people in quitting smoking,” said Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s medical officer of health.

“The numbers show that most smokers want to quit. Many have tried at least once in the last six months,” he said.

“This will give them a nudge in the right direction.”

Hanley said the Yukon has abnormally high smoking rates.

“We’re sitting at about a 30-per-cent smoking rate, compared to 20 or 21 per cent nationally,” he said.

He also noted that people in the lower income bracket are more prone to having a smoking addiction. Giving up smoking, as well as being a healthy decision, will help people financially, he said.

One of the primary concerns of smoking indoors is exposing neighbours to second-hand smoke, which can be dispersed throughout the building via the ventilation system, he said.

“Second-hand smoke isn’t just a nuisance,” he said. “It’s a health risk.”

Concerns about people being forced outside during the winter don’t bother Hanley, who believes it to be a non-issue.

“People know what to do up here,” he said. “I’m not concerned at all.”

On top of the health concerns, the YHC was concerned about the financial burden of housing people who smoke inside. Cleaning and repairing the unit of a smoker is substantially more costly than a non-smoker, said Mostyn.

“It’s very expensive. Most of the time, we have to repaint. You often get cigarette burns. Not to mention that most of our housing has wood construction,” she said.

The YHC is prepared to deal with any resident backlash, she added.

“We realize it’s an inconvenience, but the benefits are so important that it outweighs anything else.”

Jim Kenyon, who was the minister responsible for the YHC until he entered the Yukon Party leadership race, said Wednesday afternoon the decision has been long in the making, but wasn’t finalized before he left the portfolio.

Successor Steve Nordick could not be reached for comment.

For more information on non-smoking initiatives across Canada, visit http://www.smokefreehousing.ca

CommentsAdd a comment

North of 60

May 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm

The Yukon has an abnormally high smoking rate at about 30-per-cent.

In social housing it’s closer to 50%.

This ‘smoking ban’ can’t be enforced.

Does anyone really believe this ‘grand gesture’ will make any difference?


May 19, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Ha Ha Ha now that’s funny! A lot ( I’m not saying all ) of these tenants couldn’t care less about a non smoking policy! They will still smoke! They don’t respect the rentals.  They don’t pay for the cleaning costs! Tax payers do.


May 20, 2011 at 7:43 am

Good luck with that.. most of the “marginalized” smoke.. we cover their rent, food, utilities and that leaves lots left over for booze and smokes.. (our welfare system actually enables addiction).

How are you going to enforce that?  What kind of fall out are you going to get from the bleeding hearts when you throw them out on the street? 

I don’t think it can be done.. but, i think its a valiant effort for all the reasons listed above.

bobby bitman

May 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm

My sister quit smoking when the ‘no smoking at your desk at your gov’t job’ policy came into effect in her town.  She was outside shivering in the wind at -30 and could not lie to herself any longer that she ‘enjoyed smoking’.  It finally clicked that this was a filthy, expensive addiction, and nothing more - and she quit!  (It took a lot of trying but she did it.)

Though at the time she did not like the new rules, now she is really happy the changes happened. It woke her up.

Good luck with the new initiative.  I do not think it has a down side anyway, and even if one person quits smoking as a result, or one less kid gets asthma, it’s a job well done.

Steve E

May 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Policing this is going to be cute. Whistleblowers will probably find that their snitching will not amount to a hill of beans because YHC is gutless when it comes to enforcement of the new rules. It’s all a big PR stunt to make people believe they are a well managed bureaucracy.


May 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Regulations and policies are what people eventually get used to. Some of us whether we are smokers or not smokers choose to make our home Smoke free.
Good luck and hope all works out.

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