With a ban debated for public housing, dangers of secondhand smoke no ‘thesis’
While Massachusetts’ smoke-free workplace law protects people in the workplace, multi-unit housing residents are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. The most vulnerable – children, seniors and people with disabilities with respiratory challenges – are least able to escape secondhand smoke. As stated last month in a Cambridge Day article, the Cambridge Housing Authority is taking the steps needed to ensure the health of all of its residents by pursuing a smoke-free policy, as supported by over 75 percent of CHA respondents to a recent survey.
Because smoke drifts between units and cannot be contained, the only fail-proof solution to the problem of secondhand smoke is for buildings to go entirely smoke free.
Smoke-free environments help smokers quit and prevent young people from starting to smoke. In the end, this is also the only means to protect residents with diagnosed and severe medical conditions that would remain unprotected otherwise.
Contrary to the article, which stated that the dangers of secondhand smoke was a “thesis,” the U.S. Surgeon General as well as countless research studies have concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Second- or even thirdhand smoke can have immediate adverse effects on blood and blood vessels, increasing the risk of having a heart attack, aggravating acute respiratory infections, ear problems, asthma, heart attacks, SIDS and certain cancers.
Multi-unit housing across the market spectrum in Massachusetts is going smoke-free. Many privately owned, market-rate developments and multi-unit homes in Cambridge are already smoke-free or pursuing such a policy. The Cambridge Housing Authority should be commended for following the lead of other major cities in Massachusetts, including Boston, Springfield, Brookline, Newton and Lowell, among others, who have already instituted or are in the process of instituting a smoke-free policy in public housing. Everyone deserves to be able to live a smoke-free life. Remember, properties with these rules are smoke free, not smoker free. Smokers can live in and visit properties with smoke-free rules. These rules prevent smoking, not smokers, and they protect everyone’s health.
Elizabeth Tanefis, Metro Boston Tobacco-Free Community Partnership
Bonny Carroll, Tobacco Contractor for Somerville Health Department