For a very long time, we thought of bars, pubs and other drinking establishments as "The Final Frontier" in terms of banning smoking... if for no other reason, because smoking had already been banned virtually everywhere else. But also, right or wrong, because tobacco and alcohol are deemed to be society's two "legal" drugs. During countless city council debates on the issue, we constantly heard the invalid, broken-record argument that "the two go hand in hand". In other words, it was physically impossible to have a beer in one hand without a smoldering cigarette in the other!?!

And the unwritten rule was that if you were one of those "odd" people (among the vast majority [85%] of British Columbians) who don't smoke, yourself, then you had exactly two options: Happily suck in the stinking, toxic and deadly airborne residue of somebody else's habit/addiction... and keep your mouth shut about it or -- you guessed it -- you could just LEAVE!

Well, we weren't terribly impressed with either one of those options, so we fought that battle... and that "frontier" fell...and, contrary to nioctine cartel (formerly known as the tobacco industry) perpetuated doom and gloom myths, the sky didn't!

As stated earlier, even we thought bars and pubs were "The Final Frontier." We're pleased to announce that we were wrong.

Among all the beligerent screams of, "Don't tell me how to run my business!", "Mind your own business!", "Don't tell me what I can or can't do in public places and workplaces!", "Let the marketplace decide!", "I have rights...and I'll smoke wherever and whenever I damn-well please!", blah, blah, blah, we heard the occasional murmur, "Don't even think about telling me I can't smoke IN MY OWN HOME!!!" It was just a murmur for two very good reasons: 1) Nobody -- not even us, at Airspace Action on Smoking and Health (Canada's leading all-volunteer, non-profit anti-tobacco organization) -- thought it could/would ever happen; and 2) By keeping it quiet, they hoped nobody would hear... nobody would even think about it. But, deep down inside, even the most heavily-addicted of smokers knew it was only a matter of time.

And Airspace is extremely pleased to announce that the time has come: The new "final frontier" -- SMOKE-FREE MULTI-UNIT HOUSING -- has been found... and achieved... and is well on its way to being conquered!

We believe that very-appropriately-named "ENVY" (a 50-unit condo in North Vancouver, BC) will be Canada's first 100% SMOKE-FREE condominium development! And ENVY will, no doubt, soon become "the envy" of every other multi-unit housing complex, whether rented or owned, in the world.

While Airspace cannot claim direct responsibility for this, we most graciously accept full responsibility for our many major contributions over the last two decades that have led to this "development" in our War on Tobacco, including (but definitely not limited to): Many local No Smoking bylaws throughout the Greater Vancouver Regional District (which takes in 20 separate cities), as well as several on Vancouver Island; the (original) WCB No Smoking regulation; and a much higher level of awareness of the issue, globally, via our website, our many protests/demonstrations, lobbying efforts, letters to the editor, etc.

It's wonderful that some developers are voluntarily making their buildings 100% smoke-free. In the perfect world, every other multi-unit housing complex (apartments, condos, duplexes, etc.) would immediately follow suit. And many will, but not all... and that's why we need good, strong, effective, enforceable -- and enforced -- provincial government legislation.

All levels of government have contributed to the creation of smoke-free public places and workplaces... and, for that, we thank them. But it's absolutely absurd that, especially during long hot summers, so many people who live in smoke-free multi-unit housing can't open their balcony doors/windows, for fear of getting smoked out!

Every credible health official -- up to and including provincial and federal health ministers, the US Surgeon-General et al -- concur that second-hand tobacco smoke is much more than just a nuisance: It's a major health hazard, not to mention the fact that cigarette-ignited fires continue to be the leading cause of fire fatalities.

Now that the precedent has been set, the sky truly is the limit. And don't think that 100% smoke-free policies apply only to brand new buildings.

Owners and/or strata councils of existing buildings -- wherein suites are either rented or bought/owned -- have the right/authority (and, in fact, we would suggest, the duty) to make any building 100% smoke-free whenever they choose to do so. In addition to all the legal niceties (getting the policy [including effective -- and enforceable -- enforcement mechanisms in place] written into new lease/rental agreements, ensuring lots of advance publicity, signage, etc.), current smokers have to be "grand-fathered". In other words, "current" smokers in any building would be allowed to continue to smoke -- in their suites and on their balconies -- until they either die or move out, whichever comes first.

Yes, in a worst case scenario, that could take 50 years or more. But realistically, in the vast majority of cases, the number of "grand-fathered" smokers will dwindle to near zero -- or zero -- very quickly.

Please join Airspace Action on Smoking and Health (our rates are very reasonable... and we accept donations too).

Join us in heartily thanking those "entrepreneurial"/"pioneering" developers who are taking this very bold 'smoke-free' step... clearly, a step in the right direction.

And last but not least, join us in lobbying the provincial Minister of Health for legislation requiring 100% smoke-free multi-unit housing.

Stay tuned for regular updates on this rapidly developing story. The world is watching.

Errol E. Povah