The fight for smoke-free areas is moving into apartment buildings.

For one woman, the issue is even more pressing with the move towards legalizing marijuana.

When the smell of pot gets too strong in her apartment, Karen Azar's remedy is to stuff a wet towel at the bottom of her door.

“When the use is really bad,” Azar says inside her apartment unit on Canterbury Drive, “you can see a haze of smoke that comes through here.”

Azar, who suffers from asthma, has to resort to a mask at times.  Even her dog, who has allergies, gets one, if he lets her put it on.

“You don't even have to open the door to smell it,” she says, “you can stand in your apartment and get stoned.”

Azar is a former smoker and understands tenants’ rights to smoke in their units but wonders about her rights?

“The landlord has to take into account how it affects the people that don't do drugs and don't smoke cigarettes. They're not doing enough for us.”

That landlord, Urbandale, says noise is actually a bigger complaint than smoke. Vice President Terry Nichols says they are working with tenants to improve the weather-stripping around the doors to try to keep smoke contained but that they also have to weigh the rights of all tenants in the building.

“We have discussed non-smoking buildings,” says Nichols, whose company manages more than 15-hundred units in the city, “but we haven’t yet decided whether to move forward on this.  We are waiting to see if the province legislates that.” 

The Ottawa Council on Smoking or Health says this is a significant public health and safety issue in our community.

“We are getting more and more complaints from people affected by marijuana second hand smoke in multi-unit dwellings,” says Carmela Graziani with the council. 

It is actively working with Ottawa Public Health, city hall and other policyholders to address the issue, particularly with the increase in users of medical marijuana and with the move towards legalizing recreational marijuana.

“We're very concerned that once marijuana is legalized, and these products will be consumed more and more in public places and work places,” says Graziani, “We need to protect all work places, whether it's a work space or a living space.”

The Ottawa Council on Smoking or Health applauds landlords like the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC) that has gone smoke-free.

“We've actually served more than 15 eviction notices against tenants who have been smoking on our properties,” says Ray Sullivan, the Executive Director of CCOC, though they haven't actually had to evict anyone yet because of it.

"Serving an eviction notice is a clear enough signal we are serious about this and the behavior needs to stop and so far, it has."

The Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation operates 5 buildings in Ottawa that are smoke-free with more to come.  Tenants are pushing for it, says Sullivan.

“People are recognizing their right to not have to experience second hand smoke and when recreational marijuana becomes legal, people will recognize their right to not be second hand stoned.”

Just don't ask Karen Azar to hold her breath waiting for that.

“It’s unbearable,” she says, as she walks in the hall on her way to the laundry room, a floor below, mask in place.