Background and Context:
Cancer Council NSW receives many enquiries about exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) in multiunit housing complexes (MUH). This issue is gaining prevalence internationally with changing social norms and demographic trends. In NSW state laws do not specifically address the issue, but MUH complexes have the authority to ban smoking throughout the complex by introducing a smoke-free by-law. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that few MUH complexes have successfully introduced such a by-law.
To reduce exposure to SHS in MUH by creating a more supportive environment for MUH complexes to introduce smoke-free by-laws.
Our strategy is two-pronged. First, we build community capacity to introduce smoke-free by-laws in MUH complexes. Second, we advocate state government to address SHS exposure through legislative and regulatory reform.
We have developed a toolkit to assist change champions in MUH complexes to advocate for a smoke-free by-law. The toolkit summarises the health, financial and legal benefits of smoke-free MUH, the steps that can be taken to achieve smoke-free MUH, and examples of effective smoke-free by-laws. Evaluation of the reach and impact of this toolkit is underway. A NSW Government review of strata laws has provided an advocacy opportunity. Our submission to the review recommended that the laws explicitly define tobacco smoke as a nuisance and a hazard, and that a model by-law be introduced to address SHS.
Outcomes/What was learned:
Proposed changes to state law, including confirmation that SHS may constitute a nuisance or hazard and the inclusion of a model by-law, should help facilitate adoption of smoke-free by-laws. However, there is little evidence that these changes alone will adequately address public concern as current complexes will still require 75% owner support to introduce a by-law. On-going support to local advocates will be essential to accomplish increased uptake of smoke-free by-laws in individual MUH complexes.