Smoking bans spread to balconies

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A new condominium project in the Oslo suburb of Bærum will ban smoking on balconies and in the garden terraces of those with units on the ground floor. Developers claim the smoke would otherwise bother neighbours.

“We have developed housing projects in the past where some buyers have complained about neighbours smoking on their balconies,” Philip Stephansen, manager of Backe Prosjekt AS, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday. “This new rule has been imposed to address the problem in advance.”

Buyers undeterred
All buyers of units in the project called Eiksparken, which will have 66 residential units in four-story buildings, must agree to refrain from smoking on their balconies or garden terraces. Otherwise, developers claim, the smoke will waft into neighbouring units through windows, doors and vents.

The project is still on the drawingboard with construction due to begin early next year. The entire project in the Eiksmarka area of Bærum, with units still available priced from NOK 4 million to as much as NOK 11.3 million (USD 500,000 to USD 1.4 million), is due to be complete in mid-2018. Parking in the buildings’ garage costs extra, at NOK 300,000 (USD 37,500) per space plus monthly maintenance fees for both the buildings and a garage. The fee for the garage alone, for example, has been stipulated at NOK 3,600 per year.

The project had already sold 25 units as of Tuesday, according to its own online list of units and their prices, including several of those priced highest. Buyers clearly were not put off by the smoking ban even on one’s own private property, and outdoors. Stephansen told NRK he wasn’t aware of smoking bans at other residential projects. “Time will tell whether this becomes a trend,” he said.

Legal questions arise
Some homeowner associations, including one in the northern city of Tromsø, have posted signs discouraging smoking on balconies because it can bother neighbours. Selling privately owned units with such a ban is unusual, though, according to the legal department of the national homeowners’ federation Huseiernes Landsforbund (HL).

“It’s unclear whether a ban on smoking, laid down in a homeowners’ association, would hold up in court, even if it was set in the original bylaws and agreed to by the owners of all units,” Anders Leisner, leader of HL’s legal department, told NRK.

Leisner said it couldn’t be taken for granted that a homeowners’ association can legally forbid resident to smoke, because it would have to involve a “concrete evaluation” of the disadvantages. The threshold for evaluating smoking as a disadvantage has been lowered in Norway, and “blowing smoke from a balcony right into a neighour’s unit is not acceptable,” he said. “But if you take a puff without bothering anyone, I don’t think that can be forbidden.”

Norway otherwise has imposed strict anti-smoking laws in recent years, some of which extend to outdoor areas. It could thus break new legal ground if the bans on smoking were extended to private residential property, and tested in court.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • Vinny Gracchus

    Reject outdoor smoking bans. Repeal indoors smoking bans.

    The case for smoking bans is based on weak and inconclusive evidence (if not outright lies). For example, Bayer and Bachynski when examining the rationales for smoking bans–including the risk of passive smoke–concluded that: “Our analysis of the evidence for these claims found it far from definitive and in some cases weak.” (Reference: Bayer, R. and Bachynski, K,E. (2013). “Banning Smoking In Parks And On Beaches: Science, Policy, And The Politics Of Denormalization.” Health Aff July 2013 vol. 32 no. 7 1291-1298.)

    • inquisitor

      The risk of second hand smoke is a more than legitimate concern with plenty of evidence to back it up. My work and ongoing consultations with the cancer physicians at MD Anderson in Texas and Sloan-Kettering in New York also confirm this. Surely it is more of risk with indoor second-hand exposure than outdoors.

      But the article was not addressing the smoking ban due to health concerns, but because of its nuisance factor.

      The smell, or stench, of a burning cigarette is actually attributed to a specific noxious chemical that is not well tolerated by non-smokers.

      • Vinny Gracchus

        The overwhelming majority of studies show no link between exposure to passive smoking and disease in normal exposures indoors as well. For example, Jenkins, et al, found minuscule exposure to tobacco products to bartenders and waiters in smoking establishments resulting in levels of harm characterized as ‘none’ to ‘improbable’. Jenkins, R. A., Palausky, A., Counts, R. W., Bayne, C. K., Dindal, A. B., and Guerin, M. R. Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Sixteen Cities in the United States as Determined by Personal Breathing Zone Air Sampling. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 1996 Oct-Dec;6(4):473-502. The studies that do show an association show very week association.

        Another large prospective study (76,000 women) presented in 2013 showed that while there is a strong association between smoking and lung cancer no such link has been demonstrated with second hand smoke. The direct quote is “the fact that passive smoking may not be strongly associated with lung cancer points to a need to find other risk factors for the disease [in nonsmokers].” The study was presented by Stanford University researchers at the June 2013 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. (See Peres, J, “No Clear Link Between Passive Smoking and Lung Cancer,”J Natl Cancer Inst, 2013.)

  • lakeshore librarian

    As a person with an allergy to cigarette smoke and asthma, my life has been improved a great deal by indoor smoking bans. However, I’m not sure outdoor bans make sense as long as the cigarette itself remains a legal product.