I am a smoker. That is, I am addicted to taking small paper tubes stuffed with impossibly dry tobacco and God knows how many toxic chemicals, lighting their ends on fire, and inhaling the resulting smoke. Whichever of our prehistoric ancestors first thought to light a plant on fire and then breathe in its vapors was equal parts genius, daring, and probably mentally handicapped. Regardless, if you’re a smoker, you get it. That reassuring rush that somehow calms your nerves while simultaneously increasing your heart rate is second to none. If you’re not a smoker, I should say that the momentary buzz is not nearly good enough to warrant starting. Smoking, like getting shot or struck by lightning, is very detrimental to your health.
Despite being a smoker, I’ve never been a big “smoker’s rights” kind of person. Not allowed to smoke in a bar anymore? Fine with me. Don’t want me to smoke near a door or window or whatever? Ugh, ok, you’re kind of being a pussy about it but if walking 15 feet means it annoys you less, I’ll do it. I avoid smoking near children, lest a minute wisp of second-hand smoke reach their lungs or skin, stunting their growth or giving them asthma or whatever other health defect their parents can blame the smoke for in place of their own inadequate, worrisome genes. If I insist on burning and inhaling a smelly, unhealthy thing, I will concede your right to not be forced to also inhale that smelly, unhealthy thing. As long as we’re outside and there’s sufficient distance between us, all should be quiet on the Western Front.
That’s the precise reason why I chose to rent an apartment with a balcony. I can be outdoors without having to go all the way downstairs, and yet the design and location of the balconies ensure that my neighbors are sufficiently protected from the noxious fumes that hang around for a second and then disperse harmlessly into the atmosphere. Drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, and listening to music on my balcony is one of my favorite summer pastimes, right up there with golf and baseball. Well, according to the do-gooders who manage my apartment building, that’s all about to change. The following is an email sent out to all residents (emphasis mine):
Dear Valued Resident of Archstone Courthouse Plaza:
In Fall of 2012, [Apartment Name] began the conversion to a smoke free community. With the recent change in ownership, I wanted to make you aware that we do intend to continue the conversion to smoke free living. This will prohibit smoking in individual apartments (including balconies and patios), any common areas (both indoor and outdoors), as well as within 25 feet of the community. We will continue implementing and enforcing this policy immediately, and a smoke free lease addendum is now a part of all lease agreements signed under [Management Company]. This transition will take time, as current lease agreements do not contain the smoke free addendum and will not until the lease has expired. All new leases and lease renewals will contain the smoke free addendum. You will find the smoke free addendum below for your review, so you can familiarize yourself with the policy and restrictions. We appreciate your patience and support while we continue to implement this policy. Please feel free to contact the leasing office with any questions or concerns or simply reply to this email.
SMOKE-FREE LEASE ADDENDUM
This Smoke Free Lease Addendum (“Addendum”) is dated and effective as of the date on the Residential Lease – Term Sheet (the “Term Sheet”) to which this Addendum is attached and made a part of (“the Lease”) and is made by and between Lessor and Resident for the Premises at the Community identified in the Lease.
You acknowledge that the building in which the Premises is located, and the Community as a whole, are smoke-free living environments. You and all of your occupants and guests are prohibited from smoking anywhere in the interior or exterior of the Premises (including balconies and patios), or anywhere else in the Community. This policy is intended to benefit all residents of the Community. You are responsible fo r any violation of this non-smoking policy by you, or any of your occupants or guests.
You understand that we will take reasonable steps to enforce the smoke-free terms of the Lease and to make the Community a smoke-free environment. However, because our ability to police, monitor or enforce the terms of this Addendum is dependent on the full cooperation of all residents, occupants and guests throughout the Community, we cannot guarantee that the Premises or the Community will be totally free from secondhand smoke.
If you or any of your occupants and guests violate the terms of this Addendum, such violation will be deemed a material default under the terms of the Lease, and we will be entitled to exercise all rights and remedies at law or in equity, consistent with the provisions of the Default Remedies paragraph in the Lease.
Leading up to this, the gist of their smoke-free messaging was basically “You talked, and WE listened!” There were claims of surveys being administered, complaints, etc. Bullshit. I’ve lived in this building since July of last year, and not once were we surveyed, nor were we notified of any complaints of people being bothered by cigarette smoke. And really, I don’t mind not smoking on our common rooftop area, even if it is completely outside and people are just being dweebs about it. But balconies and patios? Get bent.
I would be fine with it if this were a litter issue, because in fairness cigarette butts are gross and no one should have to pick up after you as a smoker. I could even get behind some kind of public health issue, even if that would be unlikely because again, I’m only smoking outside and there is an overabundance of air outside that is not smoke. If either of those were the case, they could just say so. But they don’t. The third, bolded paragraph tells me all I need to know about their motivations. Roughly translated, it says “We’re making this a rule, but in terms of practicality we cannot enforce it. We’ll rely on the community to police itself, and even then there isn’t much we can do about it.” So, there won’t be any smoking police, wearing crossing guard sashes and little train conductor hats adorned with a picture of a cigarette with in a red circle and slash emblem, to blow the whistle on nefarious balcony smokers. Why, then, would they implement a policy they’re incapable of enforcing?
Marketing. It’s all marketing. As a gigantic residential property company, my apartment’s owners are always looking for ways to make more money. The easiest way to do that is to attract wealthier customers, and you know who’s wealthier than an unemployed blogger and his questionably employed wife? Families. Families and their dirty, filthy children. A spawning pair of humans in the DC area is likely to be older, have more income, and be willing to pay more for a nicer place. What’s more, a family with kids is far less likely to pack up and move, meaning they’ll bend over and take rent increases year after year. By being able to tout their community as “100% Smoke Free!”, the management company can do a much better job of attracting fussy, neurotic parents and their disease-ridden offspring, even if the claim isn’t “technically” true.
Usually, when people hear a smoker complain about ridiculous policies, they say something like “well, if you don’t like it then maybe you shouldn’t have picked up such a disgusting habit in the first place.” Blow me. I’m the first person to admit that my “habit” (addiction) shouldn’t infringe on others’ right to clean air. I’m also the first to admit that a company shouldn’t bullshit and inconvenience its residents just to pad the bottom line.
Please do not smoke. It is bad for business.