|added Tue December 18 2007 at 10:41 AM
|Here's an interesting article someone forwarded at work: Seattle Times.
This is an interesting question of what to do with negative externalities. If your next door neighbor is throwing parties at midnight and it's disturbing you, you can call the cops on them for disturbing the peace. One of the reasons why I decided not to rent an apartment when I moved here is because I once had a downstairs neighbor who saw no problem playing his rap music as loud as he wanted even though it literally shook my floors but reported me to the landlord because I had some friends over in the evening (if you knew my style of "party," you'd understand the tragicomic nature of this - I think there were too many footsteps or something). Now, when it comes to smoking, I've had friends who live next door to chain smokers and during certain times of the year (when everybody is forced indoors and the air is pumping full blast, either heat or AC), it would stink up their apartment. Which right is more important here, their right to smoke death sticks or my friends' right to breath clean air? What if my friends were highly allergic to the smoke (my dad has very bad asthma which is actually triggered by the neighbors smoking a pipe outside - he has to close the window any time they come out during the summer).
On the other hand, if we allow the governing body to make a restriction on smoking, then what are they going to target next? How long before they're blocking things like homosexuality, swearing, or cooking ethnic dishes ("I can smell their curry down the hall and it makes me sick")?
Finally, there's the question of property ownership. Should the owners of the apartment be allowed to set rules for what is and isn't allowed in their apartment? Smokers are not a protected class of people, so you often see housing ads requiring nonsmokers since a heavy chain smoker can actually cause damage to the housing unit. What if the "owners" of the apartment happen to be the government? Do they have to subsidize rent *and* avoid upsetting the tenants?
In this case, I think that it would be better if they were to set the new rules on new units. I can't condone kicking people out of their apartments because the rules change, but I can also understand the desire for some people to live in a smoke-free community. If I were given the option between living in a smoke-free apartment building or an apartment building where smoking is allowed, I would definitely pick the smoke-free (I inherited some of my Dad's asthma, though thankfully not so bad). It would definitely take a longer period of time, but perhaps it would be more fair to those that currently smoke in their apartments.