Clearing the air

Colin MacLean
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Resident of apartment building that allows smoking talks about second-hand smoke

Diana Bolger takes a walk near her apartment building Wednesday. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Because of where she lives, Diana Bolger has ended up in the emergency room four times this year.

Bolger suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that causes severe narrowing of the airways and reduces lung capacity. She is chronically short of breath and has trouble climbing stairs, small hills and doing other simple physical tasks.

Her condition deteriorated to the point last year that she had to move out of her house and into an apartment building that had an elevator.

The problem for Bolger is that her apartment building allows smoking indoors. She knew about the policy before she moved in but didn’t realize how much damage it would cause to her health.

“When you walk down my hall, going down to my apartment, it was really hard to breathe. I’ve had to cover my mouth on several occasions just to get to my apartment,” said Bolger. “I didn’t know the intensity of the smoking. I’d never lived in a smoking building before,” she added.

Since she moved into the apartment, in Regency Towers on The Boulevard in St. John’s, Bolger has been prescribed a very strong anti-inflammatory by her doctors and is now looking for a new place to live.

In the meantime she has spoken with her landlord and her neighbours, all of whom she says have been sympathetic. But the bottom line is that none of them is doing anything wrong. There are no laws or regulations concerning smoking in apartment buildings in Newfoundland and Labrador other than those imposed by landlords.

So Bolger intends to find a non-smoking apartment in the hopes of preserving her health and slowing down the deterioration of her lungs.

But the experience of living in a building that allows smoking has left her with a deep sense of unease about how little people, at least in her experience, understand about second-hand smoke and its potential effects on those with lung conditions.

“You’re taking someone else’s life in your hands. ... People just don’t understand that,” she said.

Coincidentally, a new paper released Wednesday by Dr. David Saltman, a respected MUN professor and oncologist, and Kevin Coady, executive director of Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, makes the argument that more apartment buildings should be encouraged to go smoke-free.

The paper was part of a larger package released by the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada’s 2011-2012 Report Card on Cancer in Canada.

In the paper, the authors make the case that converting multi-unit housing to be smoke-free is both economical and has significant health benefits for residents.

The paper argues that non-smokers living in smoking-enabled multi-unit housing can still be exposed to tobacco smoke because of air ducts, wall seepage, along plumbing and electrical lines and through windows.

It also quoted a study out of Boston that showed non smokers living in low-income housing were exposed to the equivalent of 0.25 cigarettes per day, up to as much as one full cigarette a day.

It also stated that landlords of non-smoking buildings save money in the long run because they don’t have to worry about cleaning up carpet burns or trying to get the smell of smoke out of the apartment for new tenants.

But what the paper stopped short of doing was advising governments to take legislative action, similarly to what’s been done for smoking in the workplace and public buildings.

There’s no need, said Saltman.

“What we want the government to do is raise awareness of this issue. ... I’m not sure legislating banning smoking in apartments is necessary given the movement now (of declining smoking trends),” said Saltman.

The report card in its intirety can be found at

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, MUN, Boston

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Recent comments

  • concerned with second hand smoke
    April 14, 2012 - 07:56

    I believe smoking shouldn't be allowed anywhere period!! I have a 1 year old daughter and I find it disgusting when i walk out of Walmart or a grocery store and people are smoking in the entrance. My daughter does not want or need anyones second hand smoke polluting her little lungs. We can't visit any family members in buildings that allow smoking because she will breathe it in. Ms.Bolger is just trying to make people of all ages aware of the consequences of second hand smoke and I support her fully!!! There should be more brave and strong people out there like Ms. Bolger. God Bless

  • keep children healthy.....
    April 14, 2012 - 06:49

    I agree with Doug the paper written was versed towards the smoking in apartment buildings causes lung illnesses. I am sure ms. Bolger is concerned for the public areas in such buildings which have second hand smoke particles, gasses, and vapors in the air that are not visibl . Question: should anyone have to be expected to breath in contaminanted air? What about people with young children having to use the hallways to gain enterrnce to apt. Units, why subject them to infection, which will cause asthma and other respiratory diseases not to mention the introduction to the smell and possible future addiction to smoking. I agree with Ms. Bolger and the written article that smoking in public areas should be banned. Ms.Bolger took a stand to speak up as a concern for the health of people in general as well the safety for our children to prevent them from such diseases as lung cancers, asthma, and COPD. Thank you Ms Bolger I agree with another comment you should be the poster child for Copd...give our children a fighting chance against early exposure to se ond hand smoke in public places.... Best Wishes Ms.Bolger

  • Doug
    April 13, 2012 - 15:51

    I would like to start by saying that i believe the story has a slight misrepresentation in the way it has been delivered. The story says: "Coincidentally, a new paper released Wednesday, April 11, 2012 by Dr. David Saltman, in Toronto, ON, a respected MUN professor and oncologist, and Kevin Coady, executive director of Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance for the Control of Tobacco, makes the argument that more apartment buildings should be encouraged to go smoke-free." "The paper was part of a larger package released by the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada’s 2011-2012 Report Card on Cancer in Canada." This interview was NO "Coincidence" at all. This report and the press release event was covered by the reporter BEFORE the interview with Ms. Bolger, but the story seems to reflect that she instigated the movement to ban smoking in apartment buildings, yet this was not the case. The Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada put forth the recommendation to government to try and pass legislation to have smoking banned and Ms. Bolger was just advocating the presented proposal. I agree it is a good idea to have the apartments designated smoke free and if they want to have smoking apartments then the buildings should be out fitted with a separate ventilation system and should also be separated by a airtight barrier between the smoking and non-smoking floors... these apartments should also be located on the top floors of the complex. I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Ms. Bolger for her suffering with COPD and also to encourage her and others with similar conditions to keep up the fight, after all, these people only have the best interests of EVERYONE at heart. Smoking is a health hazard and effects everyone... including the smokers!!

  • fBreath easy day B.E.D..
    April 12, 2012 - 18:56

    My Oh My |. what is the problem ..the lady and her COPD AND WHERE SHE SHOULD LIVE IS NOT THE ISSUE.... The paper written trying to stop smoking in apartment buildings is the source trying to stop the smokers not Ms.Bolger.......second hand smoke does harm cause attacks to people with lung disease...proven fact..... Good job Mis takes courage to put yourself out there to help others with lung disease- COPD.. You should become the poster child for look healthy but live with a chronic lung disease not visible to the eye ....Good Luck.!

  • people's freedom
    April 12, 2012 - 18:00

    OMG!!! Has anyone taken the time to read the article and understand the actual message? Ms. Bolger is not in a debate whether someone has the freedom to be a smoker or a non-smoker. The article is written by a prof from Mun addressing the issue of allowing smoking in apartments buildings and the effects of second-hand smoke causing lung disease. Ms. Bolger unfortunately is an example of the said above article. So should we judge her for wanting to help people become aware of the fact that second-hand smoke can cause lung disease. This is not an attack on smokers, we all understand smoking is an addiction, so let's be non-judgemental and keep an open mind and be fair.

  • Marge
    April 12, 2012 - 11:24

    Why must the government make a law for everything? Smoking is gross. Second-hand smoke is gross. Everyone is aware of the health ramifications of smoking. Unfortunately, people still choose to continue with this filthy habit. If we want the government to do something about it, then they should make smoking illegal -- banning it completely from the entire country. Maybe the Humane Society should get busy with this more imminent issue rather than trying to get rid of the seal hunt.

  • cathy
    April 12, 2012 - 10:42

    the article does say she is looking to move again ...and i didnt read anything where she wants people to give up smoking in their own home what she is trying to say is that Second hand smoke does have an affect on those that dont....she made a mistake in moving in that building but my guess is that she didnt think the smoke would move into the corridors...By the way, people who smoke STINK. It smells disgusting..and worse when a erson tries to cover it with perfume or cologne.

  • Gerry
    April 12, 2012 - 10:12

    I ama exsmoker for years & I believe everyone should be an ex-smoker or nonsmoker., but the choice is for the individual to make....Mrs Bolger KNEW she was moving into a an apartment building that allowed smokers; ergo there be smokers there!!.. 'She knew about the policy before she moved in but didn’t realize how much damage it would cause to her health.'...I gota cry BS,I find that hard to believe myself with the amount of information that's been out there for YEARs; plus her doctor that diagnosed her with COPD didn't tell her about the horrors of second-hand smoke?? I'm betting her doctor did & she decides to move into a smoker's apartment building?? Poor decision on her part, but not the fault of the residents in a smokers building....also what were the extenuating factors behind her diagnosis of COPD? Was it because of allergies? Heriditary?Or was it because like many COPD diagnosed individuals she had a history of smoking? She KNEW she was moving into a smoking allowed building. For someone with a respiratory condition to claim that they didn't know about the effects of second-hand smoke in this day and age; please....I wih her well & good health, but people need to take responsibility for their actions & decisions...I am all for residential places for nonsmokers buildings - I think its great;but I am also for residential building for smokers; believe it or not, smokers are people & have rights to....

  • dust off the suitcase
    April 12, 2012 - 09:50

    Time to pack up and move again I say!!!

  • wayne
    April 12, 2012 - 08:24

    she moved INTO a place where smoking was permitted. It's a privately owned building. I don't smoke but I think the solution here is for her to move somewhere where smoking is not permitted. This is like being allergic to animals and then moving into a place where you know there are lots of them. Not the landlord's problem...and government should NOT get into this at all

  • Elen Clarke
    April 12, 2012 - 08:01

    I was diagnosed with with severe COPD approximately 15 years ago and had to receive oxygen an average of 4-5 times a week for the first several months. I saw docrors, specialists, had so many tests done.then decided to chuck them all because I realized that they wern't doing all that much for me and I didn't need all that aggravation. I tried to quit smoking but that didn't work either. Now I do take puffers a number of times a day, I walk as much as I can, and I just go on chugging. I never complain nor do I try to interfere with another's way of living. I figure I'll live until I die....don't we all? Death comes in the end!

  • Mindy
    April 12, 2012 - 07:36

    I'am not a smoker -- never had but like any other addiction it is hard for these people to give up the habit. It is easier for the non-smoker like myself to avoid the areas that are of danger to me. I have breathing problems so i just make sure I have my medications and take all pre-cautions to ensure my health is not at risk. I have to protect my health and do for me what I have to do and not always expect others to do it for me. Yes some regulations are necessary but we too also have to look outside our box.

  • Wendy
    April 12, 2012 - 07:32

    I live in a small apartment building that for a few years now have told the tenants there is to be "No Smoking" in the apartments; however, it is ignored by most. I have breathing difficulties and allergies, and would love to be able to move elsewhere, but just cannot afford it because I only receive CPP Disability after working over thirty years. Donny, it is also our (non-smokers) homes, and we are being affected negatively health-wise by the consequences of others who make a conscience decision to slowly poison themselves to death with all kinds of illnesses before that eventually happens.

  • Non-smoker
    April 12, 2012 - 07:16

    Why should the rights of the smokers be more important than the rights of a non-smoker? The apartment is just as much her house too, and she should be allowed to live in her own space without having to be exposed to the stench of tobacco! It's not easy to find apartments in this city, espicially ones with elevator access, so why should Diana be made to suffer any more than she already is? ALL public places should be smoke free...if you want to smoke, that's your right, but it's also my right as a non-smoker to want to breathe fresh air and not toxic chemicals

  • chris
    April 12, 2012 - 07:09

    Donny Dooley, let me say this ,smokers have the option of breathing fresh air or carcinogenic air and all non smokers are asking for is that same right . And no Donny the world doesn't resolve around you either, the majority of the population shouldn't have to wear mask so a minority can pollute it .

    • CJ
      April 12, 2012 - 07:56

      With all due respect Chris, she moved into the building "KNOWING" smoking was allowed. Therefore she has no right to demand that other residents in that building stop smoking. I am a non smoker with breathing disorder as well, but I have no sympathy or pity on someone who knowingly moves into a complex that allows smoking and then tries to make people stop.

  • Donny Dooley
    April 12, 2012 - 06:24

    Oh, so she wants everyone in the aparment building to stop smoking? Listen, that's not on! These are people's homes. If you don't like smoke move out to the country out of it or buy yourself a mask! The world doesn't revolve around you! Some people...

    • Smoker
      April 12, 2012 - 06:57

      I agree with Donny. She knew the building did not have a NO SMOKING policy so why did she move in there if she had a problem with it. Non smokers have to realize that the world doesn't revolve around them.

    • Really
      April 12, 2012 - 07:14

      Really..... you already cant smoke in a bar, or near a public door, even in your own car parked in some parking lots, now she wants to stop people from smoking in their own home. Really...... she moved out of her home because of this problem, only to move into a smoking apartment building. Not very smart....