Minn. program promotes smoke-free housing

Live Smoke Free educates landlords about the risks of secondhand smoke.

by Alex Holmquist

Advocates and property owners are working to reduce the harmful effects of secondhand smoke in student housing. âÄúLive Smoke Free,âÄù is a grant-funded program of the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, an organization that protects the rights and health of nonsmokers. The program aims to educate landlords, tenants and policymakers about the dangers of secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing buildings and the benefits of adopting smoke-free policies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to secondhand smoke increases the likelihood of heart disease, lung cancer and early death. Over the past few years, ANSR received phone calls from tenants concerned about smoke drifting into their apartments and landlords interested in adopting smoke-free policies in their buildings, said Carissa Duke, the assistant program director at âÄúLive Smoke Free.âÄù In 2009, the program partnered with Wilder Research to conduct a metro-wide survey of renters. They found that roughly 30 percent of renters are exposed to secondhand smoke that comes into their unit from other areas in the building and that about 34 percent considered moving because of it. âÄúWe think of apartment units as being separate entities, but theyâÄôre really not,âÄù Duke said. âÄúThere are a lot of gaps in apartments.âÄù Duke said extra sealing and ventilation often donâÄôt eliminate the problem of drifting secondhand smoke. âÄúAnytime youâÄôre smelling secondhand smoke, youâÄôre being affected,âÄù Duke said. Duke said smoke-free policies donâÄôt only benefit tenants, but also landlords who can save on cleaning costs and decrease fire hazards. Smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. âÄúItâÄôs accidents that happen when people arenâÄôt paying attention or have fallen asleep,âÄù Duke said. âÄúThe cigarette butt drops and eventually ignites something.âÄù Earlier this month, âÄúLive Smoke FreeâÄù held free âÄúwebinarsâÄù for landlords interested in adopting smoke-free policies. Duke said that athough there has been a rise in the number of smoke-free student housing units, sheâÄôd like to see more. âÄúPeople donâÄôt want to be exposed to secondhand smoke in a place where theyâÄôre trying to relax, study and live,âÄù Duke said. âÄúI hope that more apartment managers in the University area go smoke-free.âÄù Several apartments around the University of Minnesota have adopted smoke-free policies, including Marcy Park Apartments and Bierman Place Apartments. BiermanâÄôs property manager, Heather Kulla, said they decided to become smoke-free in 2004 to reduce fire hazards and provide a healthier environment for their residents. âÄúComing into an apartment complex that is smoke-free allows them not to breathe all that in,âÄù Kulla said. Under BiermanâÄôs current policy, residents have to be 25 feet away from the building to smoke. Kulla added that there have not been any complaints from residents since the policy was adopted. âÄúWeâÄôve had very good feedback from it,âÄù she said.