Housing authority goes smoke-free

At its Jan. 22 board meeting, the DeKalb County Housing Authority board of directors approved a plan to make all of its properties completely smoke-free by June 1, 2014.

Details of how this plan will be implemented will be hammered out over the next several months. The housing authority said it will collaborate with the DeKalb County Health Department to offer residents who want to quit smoking free or low-cost resources to help them do so.

“The health and safety of our residents and staff is a top priority,” said Michelle Perkins, executive director of the housing authority. “In buildings with multiple units sharing the same ventilation system, there is no way to prevent smoke from one unit from seeping into the next. The new policy will protect non-smokers – especially children, the elderly and those with medical issues – by eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke from their neighbors’ units.”

The policy will apply to all interior common areas and living units, and will apply to anyone on the premises, including residents, guests, service personnel, contractors and employees.

“We applaud the leadership of the DeKalb County Housing Authority in protecting our residents’ health,” said Jane Lux, public health administrator for the DeKalb County Health Department. “The new policy will help reduce asthma attacks, heart attacks, stroke and other serious consequences of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Perkins said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has encouraged all housing authorities to implement non-smoking policies, and approximately 10 percent of housing authorities across the country have already done so.

“Not only are the health benefits significant, a smoke-free policy will also reduce maintenance and turn-around costs,” Perkins explained. “Right now, we spend significantly more time and money to clean and repair damage in units where residents have smoked, incurring expenses related to additional painting to cover smoke stains, cleaning of air ducts and replacing stained window blinds, carpet, tile and countertops that have been damaged by cigarette smoke.”

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