Monday, October 3, 2011

Group seeks to ban smoking - even in your home

Sorry for the absence of posts last week. I took a much needed vacation to Philadelphia--great city, horribly annoying sports fans. Anyways, here is a post from this past week's edition of the Riverdale Review.

By Brendan McHugh

They forbade you in bars, restaurants, parks and beaches, and now they’d like to see you kicked the habit in your own home.

The BronxSmoke-Free Partnership is asking apartment buildings to not allow smoking the same way workplaces and, recently, parks and beaches do not allow it. Citing statistic after statistic, the Partnership’s David Lehmann explained Monday night to Community Board 8’s housing committee why more people would prefer to live in smoke-free housing. 

“Smokers don’t have any rights…to pollute my lungs,” he said.

But right now, the Partnership is only asking for buildings to volunteer for the program; Lehmann said they are “not even close to thinking about” asking for legislation. They’ve received support from a number of different Bronx City Council members, all of who supported the ban on smoking in parks and beaches.

Jump below for the rest of the story.

An anti-tobacco advocate for 25 years, Lehmann says smoke-free housing has a number of benefits, including the obvious health factors, but also saving money on building and maintenance costs.

According to a study done by Smoke-Free Housing New England, the cost to rehabilitate a residential unit that a heavy smoker lived in is nearly $3,000 more than a unit a non-smoker lived in.

Housing chair Thomas Durham, who is also a superintendent of an apartment building, said those figures make sense. 

“Between the smell, the paint and everything else that will have to be removed,” he said, accounting for new carpets, a high-end primer that would have to be used on the walls, and the possibility of holes in the floor from fallen cigarettes.

Lehmann also cited a FDNY statistic that said smoking is the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the country, and in 2009, “careless smoking” was the third leading cause of fires and led to 13 deaths.

Lehmann acknowledged there are 151,000 adult smokers in the Bronx and 3,000 high school students, but those numbers are declining with each initiative anti-smoking groups and the city take. Since 2003, when the city and state began raising taxes on cigarettes and a smoke-free workplace went into affect, the amount of smoking in New York City dropped from 19.2 to 14.0 percent. The only year smoking did not decline was when the state cut part of the budget to prevent smoking, and less free nicotine patches were available.

“We have a lot to be proud of,” Lehmann boasted. The Bronx Partnership was created in early 2010.

According to the New York City Coalition for a Smoke-free City, tobacco smoke can travel through air ducts and cracks, so even if one apartment doesn’t smoke, a neighboring unit can give the same negative consequences. More than 200,000 children in the city are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Lehmann assumes that any co-op or building that decided to undertake the initiative would probably grandfather in people who currently smoke in their apartment, but that would ultimately be up to each individual building.

The South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. has made some of their buildings smoke-free.

Currently, Lehmann knows of no buildings in Community Board 8 that have volunteered to become smoke-free, but the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership has organized a Nov. 9 smoke-free housing forum in conjunction with City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell at the Riverdale YM-YWHA. The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Koppell is beginning to start doing outreach to the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives to try to get as many buildings as interested as possible. The goal, according to the councilman’s office, is to educate and inform buildings residents, owners and renters so that they might eventually speak to their respective co-op boards and management companies to discuss the possibility of having smoke free housing.

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