Urbana council considers regulating smoking inside apartments

URBANA--Smokers living in Urbana apartments may have to move if a new ordinance amendment being considered by the city council is approved.

When Amy Stevens moved into the Edge of the Mall apartments in Urbana, she had an unwanted visitor wafting through her home by the second day.

"To live in an apartment building where smoke comes into the hallways and into your apartment is very deleterious to your health," said Stevens.

Something Stevens found out firsthand.

"Starting in October, I started getting very, very sick," said Stevens. "And on the first of January, I was diagnosed with having asthma."

A condition multiple doctors attributed to the secondhand smoke seeping into Stevens' apartment from neighboring units whose residents are lighting up inside. So Stevens joined forces with some of her other non-smoking neighbors and started a petition to see if there was something the city council could do about it.

We would like to pass an ordinance law that would say that smoking in these units would be limited to a certain floor, or part of a wing of a building," said city council member, Dennis Roberts.

The change to Urbana's smoking ordinance would apply to apartment complexes that receive state or federal subsidies, like Edge of the Mall. The buildings would designate no more than 10 percent of its apartments as smoking units. If a smoker is not already living in that area of the complex, they would have to relocate at the end of their lease.

"I've already heard from a few people on council that they support the idea in general," said Roberts. "They would like to explore it.

No formal vote was taken at Monday's meeting, but it's something the council is likely to revisit within the coming weeks. Something some residents, like Pamela Vanier, look forward to.

"We deserve to breathe fresh air," said Vanier.

Whether that becomes their legal right remains to be seen.
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