The Talheim Apartments building in Chaska, MN, will implement a smoke-free policy for its entire building, including all rental units, on Saturday, November 17, in honor of the Great American Smoke Out. Sheila Knox, building manager, chose to put the smoke-free policy into effect during the Great American Smoke Out as a way to end the secondhand smoke exposure in the building. “The Great American Smoke Out is a day when a lot of people quit smoking. So we’re taking advantage of the event and implementing our smoke-free policy at the same time,” said Knox. “We’ve been preparing to go smoke free since May, and we can’t wait!”
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Knox isn’t the only apartment building manager who has made the decision to make her building smoke free. Jodi Childers, Housing Manager for Concordia Arms in Maplewood, is happy with the policy they have had in place since July 1, 2007. “The health and well being of my residents is our top priority. A smoke-free building is safer and contributes to a better living environment,” she said.
Rita Waxon is the Director of Housing for Guardian Angels Senior Housing in Elk River, which has been smoke free since June 2007. “When we allowed smoking, we spent about 5-8 hours of extra cleaning time in each smoked-in unit in order to prepare it for new renters. We also had to pay for additional sealant for the walls and ceiling prior to repainting the units. We are expecting these costs to be eliminated now that we are a smoke-free building,” said Waxon.
Owners and managers of apartment buildings throughout the Twin Cities metro area that haven’t yet gone smoke free are considering the benefits. Toni Powell is Property Manager of Mallard Creek Apartments, a 122-unit building in Golden Valley. “We have had a lot of complaints of smoke traveling from one unit to another, and it is impossible to eliminate this problem which causes health hazards. It is nearly impossible to eliminate the smoky smell when a smoker moves out. We have to replace everything. Also, the possibility of fire is greater with a smoking community, and apartment fires are my worst fear,” said Powell. Mallard Creek Apartments will be smoke free by November 2008.
Many apartment managers decide to go smoke free once they learn that smoke-free apartment buildings are legal. “Smoking is not a protected activity or right, such as voting or marriage, so apartment building owners can designate their entire building or grounds as smoke-free if they want to,” said Warren Ortland, staff attorney at the Tobacco Law Center. “With the increasing public awareness of the health dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke, apartment building owners and landlords may risk more legal problems by continuing to allow smoking on their properties.”
Apartment tenants also like the idea of smoke-free apartment buildings. Lynnette Gyllenblad of Excelsior, who is allergic to secondhand smoke, is looking for a smoke-free building. “I’ve had to move twice this year from apartment units where I was literally smoked out. I am so frustrated because I can’t live in my home without getting sick, even though I’m not allowing anyone to smoke in my unit.”
Smoke migrating into apartments where it is not welcome is a common problem in Minnesota apartment buildings. According to a survey by the Center for Energy and Environment, almost half of the state’s renters stated secondhand smoke comes into their apartment unit from a location outside their apartment unit. Of those with problems, more than one-third of the respondents indicated the smoke bothers them “a lot” or “so much I’m thinking of moving”. The research also shows demand is strong for apartment units that do not smell of other people’s smoke: more than fifty percent of those living in rental apartment units would be “very likely” to choose a smoke-free apartment, all other things being equal.
“Rental property owners are beginning to recognize that there are advantages to meeting this demand,” said Brittany McFadden, Director of Live Smoke Free. “They can have lower cleaning costs, and they don’t have to deal with cigarette burns on carpets and counter tops. Smoke-free policies also reduce the risk of fire and the risk of lawsuits by tenants harmed by secondhand smoke. Owners with smoke-free buildings are overwhelmingly positive about their policy.”
For more information regarding smoke-free apartments in the Twin Cities, visit Live Smoke Free’s web site at www.mnsmokefreehousing.org.