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Ban smoking in multi-housing communities

Second hand smoke health care concept for cigarette smoking risks with human lungs in the shape of a head with one smoker and another innocent victim lung breathing the toxic fumes turning the organ black.

Knowing how insidious secondhand smoke is and how it can permeate electrical and plumbing outlets as well as in some cases HVAC systems, it’s long past time to start protecting health for all Arizonans in their most important location to stay healthy – their home.

Secondhand smoke kills.  Smoke-Free Arizona, effective May 01, 2007, did not address the issue of smoke entering from outside, through a ventilation system, or from a neighboring residence in a multi-housing community. Health compromised individuals suffer the most. Those who are ill, have a compromised immune system, the very young and elderly suffer the most. Protecting health for all Arizonans, in their home, especially now needs to be the priority.

In the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General Report titled “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke”, the surgeon general concluded that:

  • “Secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
  • Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
  • The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Back in 2008, an early earnest effort was started to promote and transition multi-family apartment communities, initially in the greater Phoenix area, to go smoke-free. This effort really took off in 2012 when Arizona Smoke-Free Living was established and American Lung Association in Arizona was chosen as the program manager. They along with on-site property management in multi-family properties promoted and educated and helped successfully transition multiple multi-family apartment properties.

Philip J. Carpenter

Philip J. Carpenter

Multiple apartment communities across Arizona have adopted this healthy and cost-saving pro-health policy to protect their residents, staff, vendors and visitors. These policies work and are self-enforcing when everyone knows and supports the smoke-free and aerosol-free policy that makes all multi-unit apartments, condominiums and duplexes smoke-free and aerosol-free. Signage also helps and is available. This ensures that complaints are followed up on and enforcement doesn’t become an issue. This would help ensure we’re all safe and comfortable not having to deal with the odor of secondhand smoke, inside and out our most special place while we deal with Covid and afterward.

In addition to still fielding secondhand smoke complaints from Arizona apartment residents, which have greatly increased during the Covid pandemic, we’re now also receiving secondhand smoke and E-cigarette aerosol complaints from condominium residents and condominium resident/owners.  Many condominium communities were once apartment communities and may have individual HVAC units.  Knowing that the majority of us prefer smoke-free and aerosol-free, why can’t condominium communities also make this healthy and cost-saving transition?  It could help increase the market value as most people would be willing to pay more for a multi-unit property if they had the understanding and assurance that the entire property, inside and out, is smoke-free and aerosol-free.

Several municipalities in California, mostly in and around the Bay Area, have laws at the city or county level that prohibit smoking in 100% of private units of all specified types of multi-unit housing. These laws apply to both privately-owned and publicly-owned multi-unit residences, as well as all existing and future buildings, and do not permit current residents to continue smoking in the building (i.e., no “grandfather” clause). Most municipal laws include condominiums and other owner-occupied properties. Can it happen here in Arizona?  Are there any city/town councils that want to protect their constituents residing in multi-unit housing options from all kinds of smoke and E-cigarette aerosol?

For more information contact Arizonans Concerned About Smoking/Arizona Smoke-Free Living at (480) 733-5864, or check out our websites for more information.

Philip J. Carpenter is ACAS executive director, smoke-free housing program manager.

One comment

  1. Philip Carpenter’s Guest Opinion (Ban smoking in multi-housing communities 2021-01-27) brought back college memories of secondhand smoke in the student housing. I could tell when the student manager was having a pot party and his tobacco smoking was continuous. Stuffing paper into the air duct and making a “snake” to put at the door so smoke wouldn’t come under the door helped to cut down on the secondhand smoke in my cold room.

    The Surgeon General now estimates that of the 480,000 deaths from tobacco smoke, 41,000 are due to secondhand smoke. It is a little early to tell how E-cigaret vapor and marijuana smoke will contribute to ill health and deaths of non-users. Besides all that, cigaret-caused fires are also a constant threat. Therefore, smokefree multi-housing is a good goal for lawmakers and building owners to consider. With Covid-19 impacting employment, smokers are home more hours of the day. In 2020, Covid-19’s 303,000 deaths came in second to tobacco, but just edged out obesity-related deaths by 3,000. With Covid-19 killing 4,000 a day, it stands a good chance of beating tobacco for the title of deadliest this year.

    Gordon Draves

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