Re April 24 Op-ed, “It’s unfair to evict tenants who smoke”: While I understand Susan Shapiro’s concerns regarding the impact on smokers of implementing no smoking policies in public housing, her proposed solution defeats the entire purpose of no smoking rules — to protect tenants from unwanted and harmful exposure to secondhand smoke.
Shapiro suggests that no smoking rules apply only to new tenants, allowing residents who currently smoke to continue. The problem is that smoke can’t be contained in multi-unit housing. Up to 60 percent of the air in a building is shared and, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, “the only means of effectively eliminating health risks associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity.”
I have fielded calls from residents of public and affordable housing for years, desperate for relief from secondhand smoke seeping into their apartments. These residents had serious health conditions that were aggravated by exposure to tobacco smoke in their homes. Residents who are homebound due to age or disability are even less able to get reprieve from their neighbor’s smoke.
Everyone deserves to breathe smoke-free air in their homes. An estimated 66 percent of adults in public housing don’t smoke and children comprise 43 percent of public housing. HUD has good reasons to mandate that all public housing authorities go smoke-free by 2018. For years, market-rate and luxury apartments have been adopting smoke-free policies. Smoke-free housing shouldn’t be a luxury out of reach for those living in affordable housing.
Current smokers who wish to quit should be given opportunity and support to do so, a no-smoking policy doesn’t require residents to quit smoking. It regulates where they can smoke to prevent others from being exposed to toxic secondhand smoke. Taking it outside will be inconvenient for smokers, nonsmokers, especially those with asthma and other respiratory conditions, will finally be able to breathe free and lead healthier lives.
For more information, visit www.SmokeFreeHousingNY.org.