Ban smoking, including pot, in apartments and condos: OPH

As the Province of Ontario prepares for the incoming legalization of recreational cannabis, Ottawa Public Health is recommending even stronger regulations than what the Liberal government is considering.

In a submission to the Provincial government, which was seeking opinions on its proposed legislation, Ottawa’s acting medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches suggests the smoking of all products – including recreational and medicinal cannabis, tobacco, and shisha – be banned in apartments and condos as well as on balconies.

The Ontario Liberals want to restrict the smoking of recreation cannabis to private dwellings, but would ban it in all indoor or outdoor common areas of multi-unit dwellings, like lobbies, hallways, elevators, and parking garages.

But Dr. Etches says apartments and condos are often too close to each other to keep residents protected from second-hand smoke.

“Second-hand smoke can disperse through a building, traveling between adjacent units through cracks in walls and ceilings, windows, and heating and ventilation systems,” Etches writes. “According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers, there is currently no available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of second-hand smoke.”

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s News and Views with Rob Snow, program manager of school and community mental health and wellness at Ottawa Public Health, Marino Francispillai, says current evidence suggests cannabis smoke is not risk-free.

“What we’re seeing, in terms of marijuana smoke, is it’s just as harmful, and potentially even more harmful, than tobacco smoke,” he says. “That’s the most recent research that we’ve been looking at which has been showing that the particulate matter that’s coming out of the second-hand smoke from marijuana is just as or more harmful than tobacco.”

Dr. Etches’ submission cites two studies from 2008 and 2009, published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, for these findings.

Francispillai says there is a significant demand for smoke-free housing options, especially when it comes to apartments.

“Some recent surveys that were done by Smoke-free Housing Ontario found that 8 in 10 Ontarians who live in multi-unit dwellings have reported they would prefer smoke-free buildings when given the choice and 9 in 10 Ontarians report they believe smoking should not be allowed in multi-unit dwellings,” Francispillai says.

However, Ottawa Public Health is also against providing other places to smoke recreational cannabis. On the subject of licensed cannabis lounges, Dr. Etches also recommends those also be prohibited, saying allowing these establishments “undermines the efforts of tobacco control to denormalize smoking and poses public health risks.”

Francispillai says this recommendation is similar to the ban on hookah lounges in the city.

“It’s clear that the impact on the patrons, as well as those who are employees there, is negative to their health,” he says. “As Ottawa Public Health, as the department of the City that’s here to protect the citizens, our best recommendation is that’s not something to go forward with.”

Dr. Etches’ submission states that these recommendations apply to smoking and vaping. Non-combustible forms of cannabis consumption pose fewer risks to others.