Property management company's new smoke-free policy protects thousands of Minnesotans
Avoiding secondhand smoke in apartments can be difficult. It can travel within complexes and common areas through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, ventilation systems and plumbing.
D.W. Jones, one of the largest property management companies in northern Minnesota, with more than 110 rental properties, over 3,000 rental units and thousands of residents, knows that eliminating secondhand smoke benefits its residents and buildings.
Secondhand smoke poses a serious health risk and contains more than 70 known cancer-causing agents. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
"We intend to make all properties safe with clean air and smoke free," said Jericho Worth, who coordinates management at nine D.W. Jones properties in Roseau, Baudette and Warroad.
The American Lung Association worked with Healthy Northland, the SHIP grantee for Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis counties, to develop the new companywide smoke-free policy. Residents at D.W. Jones properties must sign a lease addendum that states that they and their guests will not smoke in the building. They can only smoke outdoors at marked areas.
Many people don’t realize that up to 65 percent of the air at multi-housing apartments and townhomes is shared. - Liz Johnson, American Lung Association
Several other SHIP grantees supported the effort. They are: PartnerSHIP for Health (Becker, Clay, Otter Tail and Wilkin counties); North Country Community Health Board (Beltrami, Hubbard, Clearwater and Lake of the Woods counties); Cass County Public Health; Crow Wing Energized; and Health4Life (Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties).
"Many people don’t realize that up to 65 percent of the air at multi-housing apartments and townhomes is shared," said Liz Johnson, a tobacco control manager at the American Lung Association. "People with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and children with asthma are especially vulnerable."
Smoke-free policies result in safer environments
A recent study by the Minnesota Department of Health found a significant drop in frequent indoor secondhand smoke exposure among non-smokers after smoke-free policies were implemented at public housing properties.
In addition to the health benefits, smoke-free policies can help properties reduce the risk of smoking-related fires and cut down on turnover costs related to the elimination of cigarette residue, burns and odor.
"It's the culmination of years of work by several SHIP grantees," Johnson said. "D.W. Jones management has let us know that they intend to implement the new smoke-free policy at all of their properties in Brainerd, Baxter, Roseau and Baudette."
Along with the policy work, SHIP supports efforts like this one by offering implementation and enforcement training for property managers, linking managers to legal resources and other properties that have implemented smoke-free housing, connecting resources for residents who want to quit smoking, and providing free materials and information on the benefits of smoke-free housing.