DETROIT (WWJ) Jeff Ramsey, 50, a 26-year resident of Parkway Meadows apartments in Ann Arbor, couldn’t believe it when he first saw signs posted around the complex saying they will become a “smoke free community” — inside and out — starting April 1.
The notices tell residents if they want to smoke, they have to walk at least 25 feet away from their apartment. The notices include a number to call to get help quitting smoking.
“According to the newsletter, if we are caught smoking in our apartments, smokers will be issued a lease violation,” Ramsey said in a letter. “So I could be facing eviction for something in which I have been doing in my apartment for the preceding 26 plus years without an issue.
Ramsey added that he’s disabled and could not walk 25 feet from his apartment.
“Please believe me, I do realize the easy answer here is … quit smoking. But the problem here is, I’m tired of being told how I can and/or cannot live my life by the government and/or corporate America, provided that what I’m doing is legal and tobacco usage is legal,” he wrote.
Can smokers be banned from lighting up inside their own apartments? WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said smokers have no legal protections.
“An apartment complex can snuff out smoking,” Langton said.
But Ramsey still thinks it’s discriminatory. “Parkway Meadows is forcing low-income individuals to make a decision — quit smoking or be homeless, because the management staff knows everybody’s monthly incomes and they know that the vast majority of the residents, including, me, can’t afford to be evicted.”
Michigan’s smoke free air law, enacted in 2010, prevents smoking in work areas and food preparation areas, bars and restaurants. It’s also banned on patios and rooftops attached to the bar or restaurant. Cigar bars, specialty tobacco stores and casino floors are exempt.
Homes and apartments are not part of the legislation. “The law is silent on distance requirements,” the Michigan Department of Community Health says on its website.
Several metro Detroit hospitals and universities have banned smoking on their premises. And the Detroit Medical Center was the latest to implement a policy of not hiring anyone who uses tobacco products.
Twenty-nine states have laws that make smokers a protected class that cannot be discriminated against; Michigan is not one of them.