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My Turn: Smoke-free policy good for everyone

Posted: July 25, 2013 - 11:06pm

On behalf of the American Lung Association in Alaska, I applaud the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s plan to implement smoke-free housing policies in its multi-family units. I encourage AHFC to move ahead with its plan to extend the smoke-free initiative to their entire stock of housing. Smoke-free housing policies support AHFC’s mission to provide Alaskans access to safe, quality, affordable housing.

Everyone has the right to breathe clean air. At ALAA, we believe that smoke-free housing is not an amenity, but a human right. No one should be forced to be exposed to these dangers:

• Secondhand smoke (SHS) contains more than 7,000 chemicals; more than 60 of those are cancer-causing chemicals. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010)

• Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease and lung cancer risk by up to 30 percent. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006)

• Nearly nine in 10 Alaska adults (87 percent) agree that people should be protected from SHS. Support is high even among smokers; more than three in four smokers (77 percent) agree that people should be protected from SHS. (Source: Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 2013)

Indoor SHS is never isolated. It seeps through cracks in walls, ventilation, and settles in upholstery, paint, and furniture. SHS is harmful, especially to our more vulnerable populations of people with asthma, COPD and heart disease; the elderly and children.

According to U.S. Housing and Urban Development reports, more than half of public housing residents (54 percent) are either children or elderly residents. The effects SHS has on children include: increased likelihood of developing bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, poorer lung functions and ear infections. For the elderly: cancer, heart disease and stroke — the leading causes of death — are all associated with smoking and SHS. HUD reports that there are also a large number of public housing residents who suffer from diseases such as asthma and cardiovascular disease who are particularly vulnerable to damages caused by SHS. Additionally, according to a Boston survey, a disproportionate number of smokers live in public housing compared to private housing, as well as people with asthma. These statistics highlight the importance of smoke-free policies within public housing communities. The fact that AHFC recognizes these injustices, and is taking action to protect the health and well-being of its residents, is worthy of praise.

• American Lung Association Alaska Director Marge Stoneking has served as part of the American Lung Association’s Alaska team for 10 years. She played an vital role in passing the Anchorage smoke-free workplace ordinance (Anchorage Municipal Code 16.65) in 2007.

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