BUFFALO, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - It seeps through walls and heads right for your lungs. Eighty million Americans live in shared housing like an apartment or condo building. About 30 million are exposed to secondhand smoke because of their neighbors. Here is what some landlords are doing to look out for their tenants' health.
"I never smoked in my life. I never even touched a cigarette," shared housing tenant Beatrice told Ivanhoe.
But, Beatrice has COPD and nodules on her lungs from inhaling someone else's cigarette smoke. Like her, if you live in an apartment building and your neighbor smokes, you do too.
"You're looking at an estimate of anywhere between 40 and 60,000 deaths per year attributable to second-hand smoke," says Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., a Research Scientist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
That's more than all fatal car crashes each year.
"It's not a good thing; it's not a good thing," continues Hyland.
Twenty eight states ban smoking in public places, but smoking in apartments is legal. Now property-owners like Pam Berger are adopting smoke-free policies.
"Why, just because you have limited choices and limited income, should you be almost forced to live in an unhealthy environment?" said Pam Berger, the vice president for Property Operations of Belmont Housing Resources for Western New York.
Smoke can easily travel through vents and cracks under doors.
"We just wanted to provide everybody with a healthier environment," Berger explained.
Jenna Brinkworth 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," Jenna Brinkworth from the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition at Roswell Park Cancer Institute told Ivanhoe.
Smoke-free policies have increased 1,300 percent in the last six years and tenants are thankful. Madeline has asthma from secondhand smoke. Like Beatrice, she now lives in a smoke-free complex for her health.
"I don't want to get any worse. I want to see my grandkids. I want to see my grandkids get married," said Madeline.
Smokers are not a protected class and it's perfectly legal for landlords to change to a smoke-free policy at any time. The benefits extend far beyond healthier tenants. Since Pam Berger's buildings have gone smoke-free, vacancy loss has dropped 29 percent.
SECONDHAND SMOKE: Secondhand smoke can come from either sidestream smoke or mainstream smoke. Sidestream smoke comes from the lighted end of a cigarette, cigar, or pipe and is worse for people's health because the concentration of carcinogens is higher than in mainstream smoke and the small particles allow the smoke to enter the body easily. Mainstream smoke is what is exhaled by someone who is smoking. Both forms of secondhand smoke can be detrimental to non-smokers health because nicotine and toxic chemicals are being inhaled. Over 250 of the 7,000 chemical compounds in tobacco smoke are known to be harmful and 69 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer. Non-smokers can be exposed to secondhand smoke in public places such as the street or a bar, at work, or at home. Unfortunately children are more often exposed to secondhand smoke than adults, probably due to parents or guardians who smoke at home or in the car with their kids. (Source:www.cancer.org)
CONSEQUENCES: Secondhand smoke has been linked to several health problems and is known to exacerbate other conditions as well. Here are some consequences of secondhand smoke exposure:
Increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections and more severe and frequent asthma attacks in babies and children.
Immediate harmful effects to the heart, blood vessels, and blood circulation which can eventually lead to strokes, heart disease, and heart attacks. (Source: www.cancer.org)
SMOKE-FREE POLICIES: Smoke-free policies aimed at creating smoke-free environments at restaurants, work sites, and bars have become increasingly popular in the past two decades. The motivations behind state smoke-free laws were better air quality indoors, to protect non-smokers from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, to help smokers quit, and to change social norms about smoking. Although only 26 states currently have comprehensive smoke-free laws in affect, other states such as many of the southern states have communities which do have local smoke-free laws. There continues to be a push to make all 50 states in the United States enact smoke-free laws in the future. (www.cdc.gov)
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