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Colder temps highlight need for smokefree housing
The combination of COVID-19 restrictions and colder temperatures mean that more people are staying home and staying indoors. With this, comes greater exposure to indoor air pollutants, such as secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke, the smoke that is inhaled by someone who is not smoking a cigarette, contains thousands of chemicals, 70 of which can cause cancer. Even in small doses, secondhand smoke can have negative health consequences. Over time, secondhand smoke increases risk for heart disease and cancer, and it causes approximately 34,000 premature deaths due to heart disease in non-smokers each year. In children, exposure can cause ear infections and trigger asthma attacks.
Eliminating smoking in the home, whether it is a single-family home or an apartment complex, is an excellent way to reduce secondhand smoke exposure. In apartment complexes, there is no way to prevent smoke from traveling from a smoker’s apartment to other units. The smoke can travel through windows, air vents, doorways, stairwells, and even cracks in ceilings and walls. Tenants that are harmed by secondhand smoke may not always have the option of moving to a new location. In addition, smoking in apartment units causes expensive damage when it is time to turn over an apartment. The cost to turn over a smoker’s apartment can cost thousands of dollars more than a non-smokers. Lastly, smoking in the home increases risk of fires. Smoking in residential buildings is the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.
The Tobacco Action Coalition of the Finger Lakes (TACFL), a grant-funded program from the NYS Department of Health, held by the American Lung Association, works with multi-unit housing managers to implement smokefree housing policies for their complexes. As a free service, TACFL is able to assist with policy creation, tenant and staff education, and can provide signage. If you are a property manager, or a tenant in multi-unit housing, and would like to learn more about smokefree housing, please contact Brigid Heenan, at [email] or [phone number]. “It is important to note that these policies do not prevent smokers from living on the property,” says Brigid, Community Engagement Coordinator with TACFL, “it just means that smokers need to either leave the property or at least leave the building to vape or use tobacco. Our goal is to keep residents in their homes, while protecting everyone from dangerous secondhand smoke.”
Coalition Finds FL residents prefer smoke-free policies
Finger Lakes Times 9/01/20
Finger Lakes, NY – July 29, 2020 – A survey of residents in Wayne and Seneca Counties conducted by the Tobacco Action Coalition of the Finger Lakes found that 84.8% of Wayne County and 83.5% of Seneca County residents supported the idea that entrance ways of public buildings should be smokefree. The survey was part of an annual effort by TACFL to better understand how residents feel about tobacco use in their communities. These surveys are conducted in two of the four counties TACFL serves (Wayne, Seneca, Yates, and Ontario) each year, and the results help the organization to create goals that match up directly with the needs of residents of the county. Topics include tobacco-free outdoor spaces, smokefree housing, tobacco retail and marketing, youth exposure to tobacco products, and perceptions on the harms of tobacco and vape products.
The most recent survey was completed in December, and results became available in March of 2020. Residents of Wayne and Seneca Counties were contacted via telephone to voluntarily participate.
In addition to support for smokefree entrance ways and public spaces, over half of responders in both counties supported policies that restrict smoking in outdoor spaces such as parks and playgrounds. Smokefree policies in the entryways of buildings reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for patrons entering and exiting an establishment and reduce tobacco litter on the property. Policies that prohibit smoking in outdoor public spaces protect youth from secondhand smoke and reduce exposure to tobacco products. The more that you are exposed to tobacco-use, the more likely they are to use these products in the future.
TACFL also focused a group of questions towards residents that live in multi-unit housing. Compared to single family homes, residents in apartment complexes have less control over their environment, and even non-smoking tenants are exposed to tobacco smoke if they have neighbors who smoke. The survey results showed that compared to the rest of the state, Wayne County had significantly fewer options for 100% smokefree apartments.