Sunday, April 04, 2010


Half of the readers who responded to an unscientific poll on my column's blog believe that real-estate brokers are obligated to address any existing issue of secondhand smoke when they show a property. The other half think that it's up to potential buyers to keep an eye - or a nose - out for such problems while inspecting the property.

Those who felt strongly enough to add personal comments, however, were decidedly in the latter camp.

"For a person with severe asthma, cigarette smoke isn't just a smelly annoyance - it can severely affect someone's quality of life," writes a reader identifying herself only as Katie. Even so, though, she believes that it's up to a prospective buyer "to take it upon herself to meet the neighbors and go the extra mile to determine whether she could live there comfortably."

Another reader writes that, unless a buyer lives in a city that has laws against smoking in your own home, or in a building that bans smoking, she has no valid complaint.

Living within any community "doesn't always offer you complete freedom from neighborly activities," Laura VanDorsten observes. "If you have any allergies, then have the air quality tested before buying or talk to the neighbors and see if they smoke. If you, the buyer, don't like what you smell, see, hear or feel, then do not buy it."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 630 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2010 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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