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Old 05-06-2002, 08:30 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2001
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Manhattan Co-Op Board Bans Smoking
Posted May 6, 2002, 5 p.m. e.s.t.

It's never easy for a cigar smoker to find a place where he can light up in peace. Anti-smoking legislation and cigar bans are a constant frustration, and sometimes it seems the only safe haven for a cigar smoker is in the privacy of his own home.

That's in jeopardy, too.

A co-op board on the West Side of Manhattan has banned new buyers from smoking in their own apartments. After years of complaints from residents that smoke was seeping into their homes through vents, the board of 180 West End Avenue passed the resolution on April 22.

There are 452 units in the building, and many that still house smokers. But now interested buyers must state whether they smoke -- an admission that could affect their application -- and agree to keep any visitors from smoking. Any shareholders caught smoking in their apartment could have a court injunction brought against them by the co-op board and their proprietary lease terminated.

Current residents can continue smoking under a grandfather clause. Because they were living there before the new restriction, they are not affected by the ban and can light up freely in their home.

According to Douglas Klein, the director of the National Association of Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C., the bandoesn't violate any housing fairness laws, nor is it unconstitutional. A co-op board, he said, has the right to enact a smoking restriction, just as it has the right to prohibit pets.

"They are acting as any owner would," Klein said of the board's decision. "They are concerned with indoor air quality and are looking to improve it. It comes down to balancing the rights of smokers and nonsmokers."

Klein says this is the first time to his knowledge that a co-operative board has banned smoking. He doesn't think it will become a trend.

"It's all dependent on whether or not [smoking] is a problem," he said. "I don't think it will become a trend, but I think other co-ops will be watching, especially if it's a restriction they could easily implement."

Although no other co-ops have adopted smoking bans, restaurants and bars with smoking restrictions have become commonplace in today's society. Montogomery County, Maryland, attempted to ban smoking in public areas and even tried to ban smoking in homes.

In November 2000, the village council of Friendship Heights, Maryland, proposed an outdoor smoking ban. The legislation came after complaints from residents. In December it passed, and repeat-offenders caught smoking on locally maintained sidewalks, in parks and other public grounds within the community were fined $100. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Durke Thompson overturned the ban on March 5, 2001.

A year later, Montgomery County was back in the news. This time the Maryland county, which comprises such towns as Chevy Chase, Rockville and Bethesda, proposed a law to ban smoking in homes and yards if a neighbor deems the smoke offensive. The law was dropped on November 27, 2001, when county executive Douglas M. Duncan vetoed the legislation.

--Mike Marsh
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