PENQUIS - You may know that secondhand smoke is a mixture of smoke given off by the burning end of tobacco products and exhaled smoke and that it contains over 4,000 chemicals - more than 50 of which are cancer-causing agents. You may also have heard about the recent report from the Surgeon General saying the scientific evidence is now indisputable: secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard and there is no safe level of exposure. Secondhand smoke is associated with an increased risk of SIDS, asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia among other things, and causes thousands of lung cancer and coronary heart disease deaths each year.
But did you know that in the United States, the home is now the prime location for exposure of children and adults to secondhand smoke because Americans spend 69% of our time in the home? Or that the overwhelming body of medical and scientific evidence proves that exposure to secondhand smoke can be life-threatening and that no air filtration system, ventilation or cleaning procedure can remove these toxic chemicals?
Most Mainers have heard this public health message and surveys indicate that up to 78% of people prefer to live in a smoke-free environment. Yet, for people who live in rental housing, the decision of whether or not to expose themselves or their families to secondhand smoke is out of their control. Sadly, smoke drifting into units from neighboring units is still common and the health effects are staggering.
The good news is that property managers/owners have the right to designate some or all of apartment units as smoke-free as long as they do it in conformity with the requirements of their lease or rental agreements. Smoking is not a protected right. Landlords all across Maine are implementing smoke-free policies in their buildings because it reduces their risk of fire, maintenance and cleaning costs, insurance premiums and is a positive draw for tenants.
If you own or manage rental property, start making the move to a smoke-free policy. The Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine has been established to provide information, resources and technical assistance to help landlords make the right decision for each of your buildings. Landlords and tenants alike can check out www.smokefreeforme.org for more information and free materials.
If you live in your own home- make it a smoke-free zone! Here are some easy, concrete steps to follow:
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