07/16/2012 03:56 EDT | Updated 09/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Backyard smoking angers Maple Ridge family

A Maple Ridge couple is calling for new legislation to protect their family and their home from second-hand smoke from their neighbour's backyard.

Wendell and Rena Krossa say they are frustrated by smoke blowing over into their home from their neighbours' patio.

"When they're smoking there, it does not stop at the fence. It goes over and gets sucked right into our home," said Rena Krossa, whose townhouse in a new Maple Ridge subdivision sits less than three metres from her neighbours'.

"I'm totally feeling frustrated and helpless because I cannot keep my kids safe in their own home," she said.

The neighbour, Scott Urquhart, says he has tried to address their concerns by smoking in the front yard, but nothing satisfies the Krossas.

"Don't buy a house that's eight feet apart from one another, if you don't want to smell or hear your neighbours," Urquhart said.

Ernie Daykin, the mayor of Maple Ridge, says provincial and municipal bylaws are silent on the issue of smoking on patios or backyards.

"It's really difficult. How do you regulate somebody in their back yard? People feel they're over-regulated to begin with," Daykin said, noting that only 15 per cent of Maple Ridge residents smoke.

Smoking is already banned on Vancouver's beaches, parks and public spaces, in all restaurants and bars and in cars where children are present.

It's also banned in the common areas of some apartment buildings and condos. But patios and balconies are a grey area, where landlords and strata councils can make up their own rules.

Currently, there's no prohibition against smoking that applies to single family homes — something the Krossas are now lobbying to change.

Wrote to Premier Clark

In a letter to Premier Christy Clark and Mayor Daykin, Wendell Krossa notes that his campaign is not about "picking on smokers" or interfering with their right to smoke in their own yards.

"To the contrary, this is about smokers violating non-smoker’s rights to a safe and healthy life. Smokers violate such rights by not taking proper care when expelling their toxins into other’s property and lungs," he wrote.

Across the province, anti-smoking groups say at least 500,000 British Columbians are exposed to unwanted second-hand smoke in their homes.

"In general, the province, under which such laws are generally the purview, seems to be reluctant in dealing with smoking issues in what they deem the privacy of their own home or on their own property," said a statement by the Clean Air Coalition of BC, which is comprised of the B.C. Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. & Yukon.

"Because of the current state of the laws, we generally advocate for such protections specifically in multi-unit dwellings if only because we are aware that they have a better chance of happening," it added.

Vancouver lawyer Ron Usher says anti-smoking laws are not as clear as they should be.

The challenge for legislators, Usher said, is to balance the rights and freedoms of people on private property with the need to safeguard others from harm.