Use Bylaw, not Rule, to Ban Smoking in Community

February 23, 2018
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As time goes on, even more information emerges about how dangerous smoking is not only for smokers, but also for those exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand tobacco smoke—Environmental Tobacco Smoke or ETS—has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a “Group A” carcinogen, a known cause of cancer. Smoking is also a fire hazard, leading to possible property damage; cigarettes or cigars that haven’t been completely extinguished can spark flames. And tobacco smoke also annoys nonsmoking members and their guests, resulting in more complaints that you have to address.

It’s common for prospective homeowners who are considering buying in a community association to ask about whether it’s a nonsmoking property. This is especially important in smaller properties like condominium buildings, where smokers might linger outside the building or in limited common areas. So another positive reason for a ban is increased property values.

If it’s within your association board’s power to ban smoking, you should seriously consider proposing a ban in either part or, depending on what type of community you have, all of the community. You’ll have to take proper steps in line with governing documents, though. Because of the risks involved with smoking, many community association boards feel that it’s their responsibility to ban smoking in their communities. Some boards feel that putting an end to smoking in common areas is enough, while others try to prohibit smoking in members’ units as well. If you decide to do one or both, you should write an effective bylaw so that you can enforce a no-smoking policy.

Although you could probably ban smoking in common areas just by passing a rule, a bylaw is better because it requires a vote of the members. This will give you a stronger mandate to enforce the smoking policy, and members will appreciate being included in the decision. To extend your smoking ban to members’ units, on the other hand, you probably don’t have a choice, and will have to hold a member vote and pass a bylaw. That’s because you probably don’t otherwise have the authority in the governing documents to regulate this type of member behavior within their units.

For information about how exactly you can accomplish a smoking ban in your community, see “Pass Anti-Smoking Bylaw to Extinguish Related Risks in Community,” available to subscribers here.