E-Cigs and Multifamily
While USB ports are everywhere these days, one electronic device that’s still unwelcome is the e-cigarette. Over 500 readers responded to our recent multifamily survey, with 64% in favor of banning them in nonsmoking multifamily buildings and nonsmoking floors.
The biggest issue? The health effects of e-cigs on smokers and those around them have not been fully determined, with industry and medical research still butting heads and minimal federal oversight. Sales of e-cigs more than doubled last year to $1.7B, according to a New York Times article this week (citing Wells Fargo Securities), and in the next decade consumption could surpass that of regular cigarettes. While it's difficult to take a side when information remains murky, some decisive multifamily mavens offered their reasoning.
Sotheby International Realty Canada’s Gordon Gibson says, “It would be hoped that a No Cigarette policy will simply end that unhealthy habit. No compromise." (Good luck; we meant to start a no procrastination policy last week.) Many of you support the ban because of e-cigs’ unknown health impacts, while others cited the impact on children, the imposition on non-smokers nearby, and a noxious odor. “Who wants to live in a Yankee Candle shop, after all?” said one respondent. Another enterprising respondent, perhaps from Colorado, said recent movements to relax marijuana laws might also be applied to cigarettes. “Perhaps they should have smoking buildings? People would really pay extra to live there!”
Boston’s Best Realty’s Marian Lazarczyk, an ex-smoker, tells us people will use them anyway so there’s no point in forbidding it. Others against the ban say they notice no smell or ill effects around e-cigs (keep in mind how many types there are, one reason for such varied responses). It’s difficult to enforce, and e-cig use in-unit is a non-issue because there’s no risk of odor, staining, or burns, one respondent says. In common areas, some support a ban but others think e-cigs will become more widely accepted in certain areas. Also, one of you points out, if you send people outside for a real cigarette they’ll leave their butt on the ground.
CBRE senior real estate manager Lynn Vilmar, chair of BOMA International’s government affairs committee, gave us details on the group’s stance on e-cigs. It supports the right of building owners to establish their own policies, as long as they follow federal, state, and local laws. BOMA will treat e-cigs like any tobacco product until there’s definitive evidence otherwise from a recognized federal, state, or local agency, such as the FDA. They also present a new factor for property managers to monitor. Lynn manages a 42-story office building in downtown Tampa, and has had to ask several people smoking e-cigs in the lobby and in tenant spaces to go outside to the smoking area. Which side's blowing smoke? The debate continues.