From Sea to Shining Sea…Smoke-Free

Ten years ago, 25.6% of adults in our country were smoking.  In 2010, 19.3% of American adults were smoking.  Fireworks will light up the skies of Independence Day, but let’s also celebrate because, across the nation, fewer people are lighting up, and more are choosing to live smoke-free.

There’s a momentum building around the country in support of smoke-free housing.  According a new Quinnipiac poll, 59% of New Yorkers want to live in smoke-free apartment buildings.  Building smoking policies would help educate New Yorkers about the smoke-free housing options that are available to them.

Oregon and Maine already have statewide housing disclosure laws. Closer to home, Buffalo and Rockland County, NY have recently passed similar disclosure laws at the municipal level.  A disclosure policy in New York City might require landlords to tell potential tenants and buyers if their building is smoke-free, so New Yorkers can make  more informed choices when deciding where they want to live.  Just as they do when learning of lead paint and asbestos, New Yorkers will be able to decide to live in smoke-free homes and say no to buildings that allow smoking.

We live in a crowded city, and secondhand smoke is a real health threat. At the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, we are receiving more calls about secondhand smoke in residential buildings than any other tobacco control issue.  Secondhand smoke in multi-unit dwellings simply cannot be contained.  In some cases, 65% of air is shared between units in an apartment building.  And there is just no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, especially for children and seniors.

In a recent national study of apartment dwellers conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly one-third reported smelling tobacco smoke in their buildings, and half of them reported smelling smoke in their buildings, and half of them reported smelling smoke in their own apartments.  Such exposure could put children at risk for respiratory diseases and illness if it is persistent or if the child already suffers from asthma or other respiratory diseases.

The move toward more smoke-free housing options in our city is a natural next step to protect the health of our families.  With a disclosure policy in place, New Yorkers, including 86% of them who don’t  smoke, would have more choices—and opportunities to decide to live in a smoke-free home.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has declared that it is both legal and advisable to prohibit smoking in mult-unit dwellings to prevent secondhand smoke exposure.  New York State Real Estate Property Law that states that every tenant has the right to be free of “dangerous, hazardous or detrimental” conditions.

Some see disclosure policies as a “nanny-state” idea.  That’s just not true.  In fact, smoking disclosure policies would give New Yorkers an opportunity to learn all the facts, so they can make an informed decision about where they want to live and raise a family.

“Our job is to inform people and then let them make decisions based on the risks that they want to take and the way they want to live their lives,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

Sounds like the Mayor believes New Yorkers should be free to choose how and where they want to live.  Sounds like freedom of choice.  Happy Fourth of July!