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Red Wing HRA housing to go smoke-free

Red Wing Housing Redevelopment Authority’s public housing units and market-rate rental units will go smoke-free starting July 1, the HRA Board of Commissioners voted April 18.

Social Services Coordinator Enid Reames said HRA staff came to support the idea after learning the benefits of smoke-free rental policies.

“Once our board and everyone got educated on it, we thought it was the responsible thing to do,” she said.

The Southeast Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board, which operates properties in Goodhue County, also voted last month to enact a smoking ban in its rental buildings starting this summer.

Smoke in one unit can move into adjacent units through hidden cracks in walls and ceilings, exposing staff and other tenants to secondhand effects, said Tom Wolff, tobacco grant coordinator with Goodhue County Health and Human Services.

“In a multi-unit building, when one person smokes, everyone in the building smokes,” he said.

Wolff has been assisting area landlords to implement smoke-free policies in rental properties under a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Tobacco-Free Communities program.

Smoke-free policies also mean cost savings for property owners, Wolff said, as years of smoking in rental units can leave residue that is expensive to remove. He said it can get so bad that sheetrock may need to be replaced after a tenant moves out.

Red Wing HRA already banned smoking in 2010 inside the Jordan Towers apartments.

Reames said there have been some complications moving to smoke-free in Jordan Towers, particularly for residents who have been smoking for many years. To help ease the transition, she said HRA has made accommodations for a designated smoking area outside and connect residents with support programs to help them quit.

Residents in the housing and rental units still will be able to smoke directly outside and Red Wing HRA will consider designating specific smoking areas at the properties in the future, said property manager Jennifer Cook in a presentation to the HRA Board last month.

Cook said a survey was sent to HRA rental and housing-unit residents about a possible ban. Although a small number of residents responded, they universally stated they would continue to stay at the HRA properties if they went smoke-free. She added that residents also have told her they are excited about the new policy.

Exposure to second-hand smoke in adults can lead to a greater risk for heart attack and is linked to nearly 34,000 nonsmoker heart disease deaths each year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

“Long term, we feel (a smoke-free policy) is best for all our residents and staff,” Reames said.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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