SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 18, 2014

Letter: Advocating for smoke-free housing

To the editor:

For 20 years as a city councilor, I have strongly advocated for smoke-free housing in the Salem Housing Authority, because it would be a clear victory for family, health and safety. I sincerely and strongly urge courage and wisdom, for it is long overdue, common sense, and a no-brainer.

The Salem Board of Health has been a strong crusader and champion of smoke-free restaurants, which we all take for granted. They were the pioneers on the North Shore to fight for that great cause. As City Council liaison to that board, it passed unanimously requiring a minimum of 20 percent of the housing units as smoke-free. It would be a strong call for action, especially knowing the documented research on the hazards of smoking in cancer, asthma and heart disease. These toxic causes of health care costs do not take time off for vacations, resident polls and cessation programs.

Taxpayers subsidize public housing, and this is a clear wake-up call. Delaying the inevitable will not simmer the emotion, rhetoric and passions. Indeed, smoking bans are not popular, but we all accept bans on smoking on the MBTA trains and buses, the campus at Salem State University, courthouses, public schools and buildings, Salem Hospital, etc. Smoke-free buildings cost less and reduce turnover and vacancy rates. Landlords report that the smoke-free implementation was as easy as enforcing any other rule, or easy to enforce. As a lifelong apartment dweller, smoke-free rule lowers tenant conflict and disputes. Many recent surveys show a strong demand for rental units in buildings with smoke-free rules. Residents are willing to pay more to live in smoke-free buildings, and prospective tenants are less interested in an apartment if they smell tobacco smoke when looking at it. Many residents who do not live in a smoke-free building would support the immediate implementation of a no-smoking rule. Despite the enormous demand, only 37 percent of apartment buildings have smoke-free rules.

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