Wollongong could have its first smoke-free residential apartment block by early next year.
Residents at Fairways, a large complex in Bank Street, are considering creating a bylaw to ban smoking across the entire precinct, including the balconies, the common areas and car park.
This has been triggered partly by complaints about smoke drift from neighbouring units, and has been welcomed by the Illawarra Cancer Council regional manager Toby Dawson.
"We support and strongly encourage other strata units to take this action ... I appreciate that smokers have rights but there is no safe level of second-hand smoke," he said yesterday.
Andrew Darby, from Chris Darby Strata, which manages Fairways, said the matter had been raised at the strata committee's annual general meeting in February after lengthy research and was now to the point where survey results from unit owners were being processed.
He said it was a movement that had started in Sydney but as far as he knew had not been tested in the Illawarra.
"Fairways has 60 units and needs 75 per cent support to get this across the line," Mr Darby said.
Those against the move include smokers who are opposed to the blanket ban and non-smokers who say they do not want to infringe on rights of visitors and other family members who smoke.
"I don't smoke but I have friends who do and when they visit I don't want to ask them to go down the street to have a smoke," said one resident, who preferred to remain anonymous.
However, strata committee secretary Barry McClelland said he supported the ban not only for health reasons but also to address smokers' litter.
"They often flick butts off balconies and these have been known to fly back on other people's balconies and into common areas."
He said he was pleased the process so far had been run along democratic lines with no rancour.
Discussion has not yet touched on how it would be policed but Mr McClelland said he had no concerns about this issue.
"If it gets up it will have majority backing and that should mean people will eventually embrace the idea," he said.
The smoking camp was not so sure: "Most people in the complex have paid more than $500,000 for a home and it seems like a big ask to get them to walk off into the night or the cold to have a smoke," said one resident.
Mr Darby said he could not comment at this stage on survey results but said the owners would be asked to vote on the motion at the annual meeting in February.
He said there were many on the sidelines, including himself, interested to see how a total ban would play out.
"I understand it in theory but I'd like to see how it works in practice," he said.
Wollongong architect Andrew Conacher said this sort of issue was going to become more common as city density increased.
"It's a bit like privacy, pet ownership and usage of common areas - they are all issues that need to be ironed out as we try to make apartment living more commonly acceptable."
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