Old News Archive

More Smoke Free Rentals Available in Maine

January 22, 2010 - TRC

Greater Supply of Smoke-Free Rentals Available to Maine Tenants
State coalition reports 10% increase in number of smoke-free rentals

Imagine having a child with asthma. You do your best to protect them: you monitor them closely, you visit the doctor regularly to keep the lung disease under control, you always have medication on hand in case of emergency and you avoid high ozone days. Now imagine not being able to protect your child in the place you spend the most time—your own home.

This isn’t just a story for hundreds of Mainers—it’s a nightmare.

Multi-unit residential buildings who permit smoking in their building allow all tenants to be exposed to secondhand smoke—a leading trigger of asthma attacks as well as known cause of many pediatric ailments such as ear infections, respiratory tract infections, and SIDS. The Asthma Regional Council of New England stated in a 2006 report that children exposed to secondhand smoke in the home are 44% more likely to suffer from asthma, and according to a report from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, there is no ventilation system or sealing which can be done to remove the toxins from secondhand smoke – the only way to eliminate secondhand smoke is to make the building 100% smoke-free.

Fortunately, the fate for many children and adults in this dangerous health situation is starting to change. Through a series of surveys of Maine landlords, the Smoke-Free Housing Coalition has found that 45% of private Maine landlords now offer smoke-free buildings—a 10% increase from 2008. Also reported is that almost 68% of landlords surveyed know that it is legal and justified to have a smoke-free policy in place.

The Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine has conducted four surveys over a 30-month period to assess knowledge and status of smoke-free policy adoption in multi-unit housing in Maine. Over 5,000 private landlords were called and asked to respond to an automated 3-question survey. Funding for this assessment was provided by the Partnership For A Tobacco-Free Maine and have demonstrated a greater understanding by Maine landlords about creating smoke-free environments for their tenants.

Auburn Housing Authority is one of twenty housing authorities in Maine with a smoke-free policy. Maine is recognized nationally as containing the highest percentage of public housing authorities with smoke-free policies, as 90% now have a smoke-free policy, second only to Michigan in total number. “These positive trends will save money for both residents and for the Auburn Housing Authority in the long term,” reports Richard Whiting, the housing authority’s Executive Director, “as well as significantly improving our housing environments and the health of residents and staff.”

Smoke-free policies not only help to protect the health and welfare of residents but save landlords and property managers hundreds, even thousands, or dollars in maintenance expenses and property causality insurance fees. In addition, surveys conducted in Maine show that 78% of tenants want to live in a smoke-free environment, making smoke-free policy adoption not only logical and safe, but highly marketable as well.

“By offering premises and grounds that are 100% smoke-free we have attracted excellent tenants who appreciate a clean and healthy environment,” states Janet, a landlord in South Portland. “We have experienced greater marketability, lower turnover and even a discount on our insurance as a result of policy adoption.”

“As more tenants demand healthy environments and more landlords understand that they are free to make their properties smoke-free, it’s just a matter of time before the supply of smoke-free housing meets the demand”, says Tina Pettingill, Coalition founder and Chair.

If you are interested in learning more about smoke-free policy adoption, please visit www.smokefreeforme.org

Everyday in Maine, one non-smoker dies from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, 50 of which are carcinogens. The Surgeon General states that there is “no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for approximately 55,000 deaths among nonsmokers in the United States each year.

Smoke-free apartments are less expensive to maintain. When a tenant who smokes moves out, costly cleaning and repairs (totaling $500-$3700 more than an apartment where no smoking is allowed) are necessary to prepare the unit for the next tenant. Also, property-casualty insurance can be less expensive for non-smoking buildings.

The Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine is a non-profit group of over 50 public health advocates, tenants, landlords, property managers, environmental health professionals and others, who have been working to protect residents living in multi-unit housing from involuntarily exposure to secondhand smoke since 2003. The Coalition is sustained by a grant from the Partnership For A Tobacco-Free Maine, funded by Fund for a Healthy Maine.

The Smoke-Free Housing Coalition’s website: www.smokefreeforme.org contains information for both tenants and landlords. The website also includes a Smoke-Free Housing registry, created so that prospective tenants could have a convenient database to search for smoke-free housing options, and as a way for landlords to advertise their units without cost. The free, online registry currently holds nearly 3,700 smoke-free units from throughout Maine.

To learn more about the Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine, please visit www.smokefreeforme.org or call (207) 874-8774.

Amy Olfene, Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine, 207-874-8774, info@smokefreeforme.org

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.