Apartment living high risk for second hand smoke - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Apartment living high risk for second hand smoke

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(01/09/13) - If you live in an apartment and your neighbor smokes you may just as well be smoking, too. This is especially true if you live in an apartment. Second hand smoke travels farther than you might think.

Some states are cracking down, but where that is not happening yet, landlords can and are taking the lead.

"I never smoked in my life. I never even touched a cigarette," Beatrice said.

It doesn't matter. She still has COPD and nodules on her lungs from inhaling someone else's cigarette smoke. Like Beatrice, if you live in an apartment building and your neighbor smokes, you do too. In fact, second hand smoke kills more people every year than car crashes.
"You're looking at an estimate of anywhere between 40 and 60,000 deaths per year attributable to second-hand smoke," says Dr. Andrew Hyland of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  

Twenty-eight states, including Michigan, ban smoking in public places, but smoking in apartments is legal. But, what a lot of property owners may not know, is that they can adopt their own smoke-free policies, regardless of state law.

"Why, just because you have limited choices and limited income, should you be almost forced to live in an unhealthy environment?" asks Pam Berger of Belmont Housing Resources.

Smoke can easily travel through vents and cracks under doors, she says, "We just wanted to provide everybody with a healthier environment."

Jenna Brinkworth, of Roswell Cancer Institute, educates landlords on how to make the switch. "This is a growing trend across the country. Many landlords are becoming more aware that it's something they can legally do."

Smoke-free policies have increased 1,300 percent in the last six years and tenants are thankful.
Madeline, who has asthma from secondhand smoke, has followed Beatrice's lead, and lives in a smoke-free apartment complex. "I don't want to get any worse. I wanna see my grand kids get married."

Smokers are not considered a "protected class", and it's perfectly legal for landlords to change to smoke-free policies at any time. Since Pam Berger's buildings have gone smoke-free, vacancy loss has dropped 29 percent.

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