I was talking to a woman who rents an apartment in an old building in Evanston. The woman talked about roaches and cracks in her walls. She said that she had once complained to her landlord about a problem for which her landlord blamed and apparently reprimanded the janitor. 

The janitor yelled at the woman for complaining and called her “a bad woman.” The woman and the janitor were from the same foreign country.  The woman was/is “blown away” and afraid to complain to the landlord about anything that might indict the janitor.

Another tenant in the same building had/has a different problem. I will call this tenant Adeline.  Adeline’s neighbors smoke, and the secondhand smoke fills Adeline’s living room and entryway to the point that she cannot occupy that part of her apartment. 

Blown Away. 

She asked her neighbors politely if they would smoke in a different part of their apartment since the rest of their apartments do not share a common wall. She also explained how the smoke irritated her eyes, throat and lungs. 

The secondhand smoke problem continued. She asked her landlord for assistance in discouraging her neighbors from smoking in their living room and even sent her landlord information about secondhand smoke, but she received no response. 

Blown Away. 

Adeline decided to measure her apartment, figure out how much of her rent covered the living room and entryway and withhold that percentage from her rent.  (Adeline does not necessarily advise others to do this.)  What else could/can she do?  Adeline remains “Blown Away” until she can move.

“Secondhand smoke, also known as passive smoking, occurs as a result of breathing in pollutants in the air from tobacco products. The American Lung Association estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for over 40,000 deaths each year.

There are no safe levels of secondhand smoke. Even a brief exposure can trigger a heart attack or an exacerbation of a wide range of negative health consequences. Additionally, exposure to secondhand smoke causes disease and premature death in children and adults who don’t smoke …It can both cause and worsen respiratory conditions.’’ (www.verywellhealth.com).

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...