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Helsinki Rejects Smoke-Free Rental Flats

A proposal for the City of Helsinki to construct smoke-free rental flats has run aground. The city's housing committee this week rejected a proposal for a trial that would have created non-smoking blocks of flats within the public rental system.

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Image: Yle

Opponents on the committee say that they fear that the trail could lead to inequalities between residential areas or even buildings in the same area. Some of them compared the idea to a ban on pets or concentrating immigrants or the mentally disturbed in one district.

"In my view, these fears are strange, one can't compare smoking to these kinds of things," says Terhi Koulumies, the National Coalition Party committee member who tabled a proposal for the trial.

Koulumies still hopes that a trial of smoke-free housing can be started at some of the new blocks of rental flats being constructed by the city. If trial availability of such flats were to draw large numbers of applications, she says it would be a clear message to decision-makers that this is something the public wants.

A study made in Helsinki shows that tobacco smoke is one of the biggest reasons for strained relations between neighbours. Smoking also increases renovation costs because flats have to be repainted when tenants change.

The first smoke-free block of rental flats will soon be completed in the neighbouring city of Espoo, which has over 400 such flats currently under construction.

There, anyone moving into a smoke-free building must sign a rental agreement that includes the no-smoking ban. The tenant is also responsible for any damages if someone does smoke in the flat.

Limitations on smoking in city-owned residential buildings are not simple to implement. Being a smoker or a non-smoker cannot be among selection criteria within the system that provides public housing. This could foreseeable lead to a segregation of tenants where new buildings are smoke-free and old buildings are not.

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