More than two years ago, Chicago banned smoking in public buildings as part of the Chicago Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. Why then were my eyes burning from heavy cigarette smoke while innocently sitting in my office yesterday? I wasn’t the only one working late. The neighboring tenant, a commercial cleaning company, had their lights on and their cigarettes lit up.
When the smoke-free ordinance passed, all the smokers in the Chicagoland area did not disappear. It merely shifted the location of their activities. Most building owners stopped worrying about environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), checking it off their list of concerns. However, without a dedicated area for smoking, people may chose a location convenient for them and inconvenient for other occupants.
A very prominent LEED certified building in Chicago has only one place to smoke outside: under a sheet metal awning. But wait, that’s not an awning… that’s the outdoor air intake! Although the building is smoke free, it isn’t really smoke free.
A common site during the cold winter months is smokers huddling close to the entrances of buildings. As people enter and exit the building, the doors often act like a piston pulling smoke into the lobby.
Here is my message to building owners: don’t badger tenants about the health risks of smoking and ETS. Create an attractive area outdoors, away from the building, where people can enjoy a smoke. They’ll be happy and their non-smoking coworkers will be happy too.
Until our building chooses to upgrade the patch of pavement out front where most smoking occurs, I’ll be sending more letters to the property manager.