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Levy’s public housing going smoke free

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By KRISTINA ZACHRY

Levy Tobacco Prevention Specialist

Smoke-free multiunit housing, a growing trend throughout the country, has made its way to Levy County’s public housing. 

Levy County public housing includes 124 units, and they have now implemented smoke-free policies. The growing list of smoke-free properties in the area includes all public housing covered by the North Central Florida Regional Housing Authority in Levy, Gilchrist and Suwannee Counties. 

“Residents at the Pines [in Chiefland] seem to be obeying the policy,” said Robert Williams, the Executive Director of the North Central Florida Regional Housing Authority. “Most really appreciate it and made comments that they were happy to live where restrictions were in place. Those that do smoke, you can see them sitting outside, so I feel the best thing I can say is that it's a work in progress and I believe deeply it's working for the better!”

“There’s a fear of alienating resident smokers, but most communities that have taken the leap consider smoke-free housing an edge over the competition and have determined that there is a market for this product’ according to Chip Tatum, the former Government Affairs Director for the Florida Apartment Association.

Across the state, there are more than 500 smoke-free multiunit housing properties and 73,000 smoke-free units. 

For property managers and landlords, smoke-free policies can have economic benefits. More than 80% of Floridians are non-smokers.  Many people who do smoke do not permit smoking in their homes.  Given these numbers, many properties have very successfully marketed their smoke-free policy as an amenity, not a restriction.   Smokefree policies can save money by eliminating the need to repair or replace carpeting, floors, fixtures, countertops or appliances damaged by burns or nicotine stains.  At the end of a lease, smoke-free units require less turnover time due to fewer preparation and repainting needs.  

Tobacco smoke can move along air ducts, through cracks in the walls and floors, through elevator shafts, and along plumbing and electrical lines affecting units that are nearby.  Therefore, there are also numerous benefits for residents as tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and at least 70 known to cause cancer. Exposure, even for short periods of time, can be dangerous. 

“A home should be a safe place for everyone, especially for children, people with existing health conditions, and the elderly who are more vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Barry Hummel, co-founder of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation which manages the tobacco prevention program in Levy County. “By making sure that residential buildings are 100 percent smoke-free, property managers are protecting tenants from the dangers of toxic smoke and from the risk of deadly smoking-related fires.” 

The following are some of the reasons why it’s critical to protect tenants from exposure to secondhand smoke:

• Secondhand smoke exposure is causally linked to heart disease, stroke, several cancers, lower respiratory illness, and impaired lung function.

•  Each year, among U.S. nonsmokers, exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 33,000 premature deaths from heart disease and about 3,400 premature deaths from lung cancer., 

• Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

• Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack. A severe asthma attack can put a child’s life in danger. 

• In the first two years of life, children exposed to secondhand smoke have more than a 50 percent increased risk of getting bronchitis and pneumonia.

• Infants exposed to secondhand smoke are at a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden, unexplained, unexpected death of an infant in the first year of life. SIDS is the leading cause of death in otherwise healthy infants.

Secondhand smoke is not the only danger.  Smoking-related fires are the leading cause of fire deaths in residential buildings. These fires are eight times more likely to result in death than fires that start from another source. Smoking-related fires in residential buildings result in an average of approximately 365 deaths, 925 injuries, and $326 million in property loss each year.

For more information, visit tobaccofreeflorida.com/smokefreehousing