Another housing unit has officially gone smoke-free, according to the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s local health promotion department.
This fall the new owners of the Stikine Native Organization building on Front Street – colloquially known as the SNO building to locals – formally made the building’s apartments smoke free. SEARHC health educator Tammi Meissner pointed out the move makes it the first private residential complex in town to register its policy with the state.
In September, the Wrangell Senior Apartments formally went smoke-free as well, instituting an outdoor buffer around its residences. Filing through SEARHC, Meissner said the management of both properties benefit from state-provided signage and inclusion on the housing listing at www.smokefreehousingak.org
She explained the move was beneficial, in that it helps protect the lungs and property of others.
“Especially in multi-unit housing, ventilation is not conducive to reducing smoke,” Meissner explained. This can lead to neighbors’ unwanted exposure to second-hand smoke, which can be particularly problematic for children and people with health issues.
“It’s the idea that those people who don’t smoke don’t have to breathe in the chemicals of second-hand smoke,” she stated.
The announcement follows momentous changes made at the federal level which would limit tobacco use in and around public housing.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development on November 30 adopted the stance that public housing developments across the country would need to provide residents with a smoke-free environment. This followed input from the public, including housing and public health organizations, tenants and public housing agencies (PHAs).
In its announcement, HUD explained the final rule will require 3,100 PHAs to implement smoke-free policies within 18 months of its adoption, prohibiting the use of smoke-producing tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas and offices. The ban would extend outdoors, to within 25 feet from buildings, as well as playgrounds and other common areas.
Rationales given for the change are to improve the health of more than 2,000,000 public housing residents, including 760,000 children; save an estimated $153 million in costs linked to smoking through healthcare, building maintenance and fire damage; and to benefit elderly tenants, who inhabit 500,000 of the 940,000 units likely to be affected.
Not covered under the new policy would be e-cigarettes. Following that announcement, on December 8 the U.S. Surgeon General reported e-cigarette usage could be a concern among the nation’s youth and young adult population. It was the first comprehensive federal review of the devices’ impact, many of which deliver nicotine to users. The effects of nicotine exposure to body development and cognitive function are well documented, in addition to concerns raised that the addictive substance “can prime young brains for addiction to other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.” The report also cited statistics that in 2015, one in six high school students were reported to have used the devices during the preceding month.
“That’s important because there’s never really been a report out,” Meissner said of the report. “Now it reinforces that. It reinforces the idea that our kids aren’t smoking cigarettes, but they’re still smoking e-cigarettes.”
Due to the holiday season, SNO Building owners Randy and Carol Churchill were unavailable for comment on the new policy.