Smoke-free housing campaign reaches a milestone

5 mins read

Just four years ago, Auburn Housing Authority became the first public housing authority in Maine to adopt a smoke-free policy. In November the agency abolished its grandfathering policy and went 100 percent smoke-free. “These positive trends will save money for both residents and Auburn Housing Authority long term,” reports Richard Whiting, the housing authority’s executive director, “as well as significantly improving our housing environments and the health of residents and staff.”

Today, Auburn Housing Authority is one of 18 housing authorities in Maine with a smoke-free policy. There are currently two public housing authorities and four tribal housing authorities that do not have written policies in place that cover some or all of their buildings. Maine is recognized nationally as containing the highest percentage, 72 percent, of housing authorities with a smoke-free policy, second only to Michigan in total number.

Smoke-free policies not only help to protect the health and welfare of residents but save landlords and property managers hundreds, even thousands, or dollars in maintenance expenses and property causality insurance fees. In addition, surveys conducted in Maine show that 78 percent of tenants want to live in a smoke-free environment but less than 41 percent of private landlords own a smoke-free building; making smoke-free policy adoption not only logical and safe, but highly marketable as well.

“By offering premises and grounds that are 100 percent smoke-free we have attracted excellent tenants who appreciate a clean and healthy environment,” states Janet, a landlord in South Portland. “We have experienced greater marketability, lower turnover and even a discount on our insurance as a result of policy adoption.”

Embracing the marketability and demand for smoke-free housing, in late 2005 the Coalition developed a free online registry for smoke-free apartment listings. To date nearly 3,200 units from over 430 landlords in 15 counties have been listed. “Our registry listings have nearly doubled over the past year and more newspaper apartment ads are reporting smoke-free status,” states Coalition founder and chair, Tina Pettingill, “It’s just a matter of time before the supply of smoke-free housing meets the demand.”
“There are currently 130 units registered in greater Franklin County,” noted Nate Morse, program coordinator & western district tobacco coordinator of Healthy Community Coalition. “We are proud to announce the availability of smoke-free apartments in our community and hope to encourage more landlords to go smoke-free.”

If you are interested in learning more about smoke-free policy adoption, or would like to list your smoke-free units on the Coalition’s free online registry, please visit www.smokefreeforme.org.

Everyday in Maine, one non-smoker dies from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 50 of which are carcinogens. The Surgeon General stated in a 2006 report that there is “no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for approximately 55,000 deaths among nonsmokers in the United States each year.

Secondhand smoke is a known cause of many pediatric ailments such as ear infections, respiratory tract infections, and SIDS. The Asthma Regional Council of New England stated in a 2006 report that children exposed to secondhand smoke in the home are 44% more likely to suffer from asthma.

Smoke-free apartments are less expensive to maintain. When a smoking tenant moves out, costly cleaning and repairs (totaling $500-$3000 more than a non-smoking apartment) are necessary to prepare the unit for the next tenant. Also, property-casualty insurance can be less expensive for non-smoking buildings.

The Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine is a non-profit group of over 50 public health advocates, tenants, landlords, property managers, environmental health professionals and others, who have been working to protect residents living in multi-unit housing from involuntarily exposure to secondhand smoke since 2004. The Coalition is sustained by grants from the Partnership For A Tobacco-Free Maine, funded by Fund for a Healthy Maine.

The Smoke-Free Housing Coalition’s Web site: www.smokefreeforme.org contains information for both tenants and landlords. The web site also includes a Smoke-Free Housing registry, created so that prospective tenants could have a convenient database to search for smoke-free housing options, and as a way for landlords to advertise their units without cost. The free, online registry currently holds nearly 3,200 smoke-free units from 15 different counties throughout Maine. To learn more about the Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine and its services, please visit www.smokefreeforme.org or call (207) 874-8774.

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