By Tammi Meissner, Health Educator, SEARHC Health Promotion
No-smoking policies are rare in public housing. This is especially troubling because it affects disadvantaged and vulnerable populations who have little choice when it comes to tobacco smoke exposure. In 2008-2009, 32% of households in public housing included elderly persons. Wrangell Senior Apartments is leading the way for policy and practice change for Wrangell’s seniors.
In apartments, secondhand smoke seeps through light fixtures, electrical outlets, ventilation systems and doorways that are part of shared residential spaces.
- Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at work or home increase their risk of heart disease by 25-30% and risk of lung cancer by 20-30%
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems alone do not control secondhand smoke exposure. In fact, these systems may distribute to secondhand smoke throughout the building.
- Smoking in multi-unit housing is a fire hazard and poses the risk of injury or death to all tenants, including nonsmokers.
Smoke-free housing is important because it improves tenant satisfaction, improves tenant health and reduces operating costs for owners. The cost to rehab an apartment where smoking is prohibited versus apartments where smoking is allowed has a monetary impact. It can cost anywhere from $1,800 to $3,500 to clean and turn over an apartment.
The Wrangell Senior Apartments board members and tenants agreed that creating a healthy smoke-free environment was a priority as well as reducing the costs to rehab apartments. It was clear, board members and tenants agreed that everyone has the right to breathe clean air. This was evident because all board members supported a smoke-free multi-unit housing policy and there was not one complaint from the 24 leased units of the Senior Apartments in regards to becoming smoke-free.
The board voted to post notices for two months, giving time for tenants to become aware and comfortable with the new smoke-free policy before it took effect on August 1st. Quit Line material was provided to the tenants by Tammi Meissner for those who decided it was time to quit. One tenant took advantage of the new policy and used August 1st as her quit.
A comprehensive smoke-free housing policy that included electronic nicotine devices was signed and as of August 1, 2016 the Wrangell Senior Apartments became smoke-free. This is the largest multi-unit housing that has gone smoke-free in Wrangell. The Partnership for a Tobacco Free Southeast and SEARHC would like to congratulate the Wrangell Senior Apartments for passing a policy that creates a healthier living environment for our seniors and those that visit them.
Remember, there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke. Eliminating smoking indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.
Article written by Tammi Meissner, POW and Wrangell Health Educator and Tobacco Policy
If you are interested in additional information on smoke-free housing or for samples of smoke-free housing policies, visit Alaskatca.org or call 1-888-474-4635. If you are looking for smoke-free housing in Alaska check on the web at www.alaskasmokefreehousing.org.