HANCOCK - With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is working to promote smoke-free policies in low-income and affordable housing in the Western U.P.
"We know that most people aren't exposed to second-hand smoke at work, especially with the state law, but there are still people who are exposed to second-hand smoke in their apartments," said Prevention Specialist Gail Ploe. "There's not a way to keep the smoke from seeping in through the heating system and neighboring units. A lot of landlords aren't aware that they are legally able to adopt a smoke-free policy. It's not discriminatory and it's good for health and for business."
The two-year stimulus funding grant is being used to assist property owners with adopting a smoke-free policy.
Members of the Copper Country Tobacco Coalition present the Hancock Housing Commission with a certificate of recognition for adopting a smoke free policy. Shown in front from left to right is Cathy Johnson, Gail Ross, Gail Ploe, Arnie Kinnunen and Taryn Mack. In back from left to right is Barry Givens, Mark Dennis and John Haeussler.
Ploe is available to provide informational presentations to housing commissions and tenants, and conduct tenant surveys. Free legal resources are available as well through the Smoke-Free Environments Law Project.
Health departments across the U.P. and downstate received similar funding to join in the effort. To date, 45 housing commissions in Michigan, including 10 in the U.P., have smoke-free policies.
Compliance with smoke-free policies is high because most property owners involve tenants in the process. They also "grandfather in" current smokers for a predetermined period of time after the policy is passed.
Ploe said there are many advantages for landlords to adopt smoke-free policies.
"Landlords really save a lot on rehabbing the apartment with cleaning and maintenance," she said.
"They may even have a drop in their fire insurance." Hancock Housing Commission Executive Director Gail Ross said. "The cost effectiveness of adopting a smoke-free policy was a no-brainer."
Rehab would cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 for a unit that previously had a smoker.
In May, the Hancock Housing Commission implemented a smoke-free policy at its 94-unit Lakeview Manor. The 24-unit Quincy Haven addition currently under construction will be completely smoke free when it opens in July of 2011.
"I think it's a great choice, first and foremost for the residents' health," Ploe said, "and secondly, because it allows them (the housing commission) to keep doing their mission."
Ross agreed saying, "Rehabbing a smoke-free unit will give us the opportunity to save money in terms of rehab costs and that will enable us to continue providing affordable housing for the people in our community."
A two-year resident of Lakeview Manor, who wished to remain anonymous, said she felt adopting a smoke-free policy was a positive move for the Hancock apartment complex.
"I can understand how in a building like this, with the way it's set up, smoke can get carried through the apartments and it can be bothersome to some of the residents," she said. "I would never tell anyone to stop smoking, but I would prefer no smoking."
The primary reason one local landlord has a smoke-free policy is because of a personal experience years ago.
"My mother passed away from smoking," Debbie Lucas said.
Lucas, who maintains rental property in Hancock, said on top of that, she simply doesn't like the smell.
"Not to mention it's a fire hazard," she said.
"A smoke-free building makes for an overall cleaner, healthier building," local landlord Barb Bouwkamp added.
"When I bought a house and moved in, I thought the drapes were olive green," she said. "I had them dry cleaned and found out that they were actually ivory. That was from the smokers who lived in the house beforehand. If the drapes were that color, what color were their lungs?"
Both tenants and landlords can learn more about smoke-free housing by visiting mismokefreeapartment.org. Anyone interested in quitting smoking can call (800) QUIT-NOW, (800) 784-8669.
For additional information, call Gail Ploe at 482-7382.
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department of Hancock. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.