Officials to Push Smoke-free Homes: Benefits Include Both Health and Wealth

January 3, 2012
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New years bring resolutions to live a healthier life. Changes in social attitudes create new ways to improve your health. By converting your building to a smoke-free zone, you can improve both your physical and fiscal health in 2012.

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) has made access to smoke-free housing a priority. A new smoke-free housing registry gives those looking to rent, buy, or sell homes in buildings that are smoke-free a place to reach one another.

“Smoke-free housing means fewer trips to the hospital for asthma attacks, and fewer residential fires,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Smoke-free housing policies are good for the health of our city and will increasingly become the new norm in Boston.”

Boston Smoke-Free Homes Project

The website www.bostonsmokefreehomes.org is far more than the registry that helps you find a smoke-free home or list one. It is also a comprehensive resource with sections designed to assist landlords & homeowners, condo owners & associations, tenants, and realtors.

Condominiums 

Courts have upheld the right of condominium associations to amend their master deeds and have made it clear that smoking bans are legal. The project has compiled everything a community association needs to examine the question, educate owners, and see the process through step-by-step.

Since approximately 85% of adults in Boston do not smoke, condominium sales are more difficult when smoking is allowed in a building. The Massachusetts Smoke-Free Housing Project (MSFHP) found that, ز88% of prospective condo owners are less interested in a development if they smell tobacco smoke.

Smoking is often a bone of contention between neighbors requiring intervention on the part of trustees and management companies. Citing a Surgeon Generalصs report on the subject, the commission said, زIt is well-established that building ventilation and filtration systems do not eliminate health risks or prevent smoke from moving between units.

Rentals 

If you own a rental building, the site explains how to institute a smoke-free policy, and it gives the reasons why you should. Maintenance costs decrease, resale values rise, and you can attract the growing number of tenants looking for smoke-free housing. The MSFHP research found that, زMore than 75% of prospective tenants are immediately less interested in an apartment unit if they smell tobacco smoke when looking at it.

Safety 

The Boston Fire Department is working with the Health Department on this effort since one of the benefits of a smoke-free building is reduced risk of fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has found that, زSmoking is the number one cause of home fire deaths in the United States.س And, that, زOne in four people killed in home fires is not the smoker whose cigarettes caused the fire.

Where to Begin 

Any homeowner can begin the process by visiting the Boston Smoke-Free Homes site and becoming educated on the subject. You can petition your buildingصs trustees to add the topic to a meeting agenda and offer to assist with the process.

You can help neighbors understand the risks and benefits that surround this issue, the legalities, the support system that is already in place, and options ranging from phasing in a smoking ban to setting up one immediately.

Changes like this take time, and property managers and condominium associations have many priorities. If you hope to convert your building to smoke-free status, it may take a volunteer effort on your part to organize those neighbors who agree with you, and educate those who may not know the positive benefits of living smoke-free.

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Cutline: Smokers have adjusted to leaving public buildings and workplaces in order to smoke. The Boston Public Health Commission is now targeting residences with its Boston Smoke-Free Homes campaign.

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