Queens Chronicle: Website helps fight smoking in apartments

(December 15, 2011)

Queens Chronicle logo
December 15, 2011

by Peter C. Mastrosimone Editor-in-Chief Queens Chronicle

The newest front in the war to end smoking is the home — at least for those who live in multi-family dwellings like apartment buildings and condominiums.

With the success of bans on smoking in public places like bars, restaurants and offices, health advocates are now seeking to reduce the habit among people who live in buildings where other families share the same walls and ventilation. The problem is that dangerous secondhand smoke travels from unit to unit with no regard to ownership or traditional concepts like one’s home being one’s castle.

To help battle the problem, which exacerbates a multitude of health problems and causes conditions like asthma, especially in children, the American Lung Association and the Community Partnerships for a Tobacco Free New York announced on Monday that they have revamped a website designed to help tenants get smoking banned in their buildings.

The website, smokefreehousingny.org, now contains items such as a no-smoking “toolkit” for landlords, guides for tenants and a section dedicated to affordable and public housing. The ALA says the site was updated in response to the growing need for information about the dangers posed by smoking in multi-unit buildings.

“Easily accessible information about smoke-free housing is important because there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and secondhand smoke kills 2,500 New Yorkers each year,” said Dr. Irwin Berlin, board chairman for the American Lung Association in New York. “When secondhand smoke intrudes into a person’s home environment, there’s truly no escape. This website will help property owners and tenants quickly access accurate information that can help them implement healthy smoke-free policies.”

Through the relaunched website, visitors will be able to:

• learn the benefits of instituting a no-smoking policy;

• download a step-by-step landlord toolkit to implement a no-smoking policy, including tenant surveys, sample letters and lease language;

• download a tenant guide for those seeking relief from secondhand smoke;

• download a condo guide and co-op guide (to be posted in the near future);

• access documents to address legal concerns;

• get news on smoke-free housing;

• advertise and search for smoke-free properties for free; and

• contact a local community coalition for assistance.

Though smoking has decreased to about 14 percent of adults citywide from 21.5 percent 15 years ago, the rate is higher in some places in Queens, according to the North Shore-LIJ Health System.

In central Queens, 17 percent of adults smoke, according to NS-LIJ, while the figure is 18 percent in northeastern Queens, 20 percent in northwestern Queens and 22 percent in the Rockaways — higher than the city average in 1993.

But the ALA says 64 percent of smokers with children keep their homes tobacco-free. At the same time, 43 percent of adults who disallow smoking in their homes, but live in multi-family buildings, are exposed to secondhand smoke.

For more information about ALA efforts to improve health, call 1 (800) 586-4872.