Ottawa is considering new anti-tobacco guidelines that could ban smoking inside apartments and on post-secondary school campuses, as well as raise the legal age for buying tobacco products to 21.

According to a discussion paper published by Health Canada on Feb. 22, approximately four million Canadians smoke, making up about 15 per cent of the population. Their new proposal is to cut the smoking population to less than five per cent by 2035.

One idea is to ban smoking inside “multi-dwelling units,” such as apartments and condominiums, where smoke can reach hallways and other units in the building, as well as on post-secondary school campuses.

“I think it’s too much invasion on the property of the smoker,” Jay Mattingsley, a smoker, told CTV Kitchener. “They’re renting the unit, they’ve paid for the rental of that unit, and it’s their home.”

Newer buildings often claim to enforce smoke-free rules, but according to Geordie Dent of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, eliminating cigarette smoke not that simple.

“If somebody goes into this building and starts smoking, there’s actually no real legal mechanism to get them out,” he told CTV Toronto.

Many post-secondary campuses already have variations of smoking bans, whether on the entire campus or near building entrances, in accordance with the province or municipality.

Jack Stevens, a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, said that he would appreciate the smoking ban on campus, due to being asthmatic.

Fellow student John Wrublewskyj said a federal law dictating a campus-wide ban isn’t necessary. He feels his school should be better at enforcing their existing ban. Wilfrid Laurier bans smoking within 10 metres of any university building.

“At night it’s horrible because when it’s cold and no one wants to actually go outside, they’ll just wear their pajamas and start smoking (in front of the door),” said Wrublewskyj.

Another proposed change is to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from the current ages of 18 and 19 to 21, following in the footsteps of both Hawaii and California. The paper notes, however, that this change could be difficult as the country seeks to legalize and regulate marijuana.

While tobacco use has been declining among the general population, it still burdens society with an estimated $17 billion in health care and indirect economic costs every year.

“I think what we failed to do is put the responsibility and the accountability where it belongs, right on the tobacco industry,” said Neil Collishaw of the Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada.

Some anti-smoking advocates, however, are wary of pushing for a full smoking ban, citing the way marijuana use continued to grow despite being illegal.

“To succeed we’re going to need a comprehensive strategy that includes legislation, taxation and better cessation programs, and youth prevention programs,” said Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer Society.

According to the discussion paper, smoking continues to be the leading cause of premature death in Canada, with 37,000 people dying from smoking-related illnesses annually.

The paper comes ahead of the expiry of the current Federal Tobacco Control Strategy in March 2018. Health Canada is looking for feedback from Canadians on the proposed changes until mid-April.

With reports from CTV Kitchener’s Abbigal Bimman, CTV Toronto’s Miranda Anthistle and CTV’s Todd Battis