BY STARRLA CRAY
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN Years ago, before the health risks became evident, cigarette smoke often filled businesses, restaurants, and even schools.
Today, most places don’t allow smoking indoors, but there’s been a push recently for more places in Wright County multi-unit housing, in particular to implement smoke-free policies.
“Last November, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule that would mandate smoke-free housing for all public housing properties,” noted Jackie Siewert, community outreach coordinator for Live Smoke Free. “Because of this, there has been increased discussion on the topic of smoke-free housing across the county.”
If approved, the rule would prohibit smoking in dwelling units, indoor common areas, administrative office buildings, and outdoor areas up to 25 feet from the housing and administrative office buildings of public housing properties.
“Only properties that receive [US Department of Housing and Urban Development] HUD funding would be affected,” Siewert said.
Although privately-owned buildings would not be required to make a change, Siewert said, “We’re using this momentum to encourage local property owners to follow suit and develop their own policies.”
Live Smoke Free has been working on smoke-free housing with Wright County Public Health as part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) initiative.
Two information sessions are planned this month in Wright County, from noon to 1:30 p.m.
The first will be at the Howard Lake Community Center Wednesday, Feb. 17; and the second will be at the Dunn Brothers conference room in Buffalo Tuesday, Feb. 23.
“Any multi-unit owner or manager in the area is welcome to attend,” Siewert said. “We’re hoping to pull in people from Cokato, Waverly, Montrose, and surrounding communities, too.”
Smoke-free policies can take many forms. At some places, smoking is only banned indoors. At other places, it might be prohibited a certain distance from the building.
“A smoke-free building isn’t a smoker-free building,” Siewert said. “You can live in a smoke free building and still be a smoker you just need to take it outside.”
Going smoke-free has benefits for both property owners and renters, according to Siewert.
“The property owner can save money on turnover costs and reduce the fire risk at their building. The renter benefits from having a healthier, cleaner, and safer place to call home. It’s a win-win,” she said.
Mikaela Robertson, health promotion coordinator for Wright County Public Health, noted that smoke-free housing policies contribute to the health of the community.
“We know that secondhand smoke is harmful, especially for children and older adults,” she said. “When an apartment building goes smoke free, it creates a healthier environment for many residents.”
According to Live Smoke Free, more than 1,800 properties in Minnesota are currently smoke-free.
A few examples of smoke-free apartments in Wright County include Delano Commons (senior housing), Cokato Parkview Apartments, Ridge Manor Apartments (senior housing) in Delano, Crow River Villa (subsidized housing) in Delano, and Golfview Apartments in Cokato.
To see a list of smoke-free properties in Minnesota, go to www.mnsmokefreehousing.org.
If you’re going . . .
Two smoke-free housing workshops will take place in February for multi-unit property owners/managers. There is no charge for these sessions. A representative from Live Smoke Free and an attorney from the Public Health Law Center will provide information on policy implementation, enforcement, legal concerns, and more.
• Wednesday, Feb. 17, noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Howard Lake Community Center, 615 6th Ave. (above the Howard Lake Library)
• Tuesday, Feb. 23, noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Dunn Brothers conference room, 92 14th St. NE in Buffalo.
To register, contact Jackie Siewert, community outreach coordinator for Live Smoke Free, at (651) 646-3005 ext. 325 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Register at least three days in advance.
Did you know?
• Cigarette fires are a leading cause of fire-related death in apartment buildings.
• Three-fourths of Minnesota renters prefer to live in a smoke-free building.
• Each year, 50,000 adult nonsmokers die from exposure to secondhand smoke.
• Property managers may be able to take advantage of tax credits and insurance savings by implementing smoke-free policies.
(Information from Live Smoke Free, a program of the Association for Nonsmokers Minnesota)