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More rentals go smoke free

Anti-smoking billboards like this one by Four Corners Partnership on Highway 61 in Welch are popping up around the state through a media campaign sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)

Owners of multi-unit rental properties continued to implement smoke-free rules last year, surpassing expectations of a local anti-tobacco group that has been promoting the benefits of such policies to landlords and renters.

“It was a very successful year for us,” said Tom Wolff, tobacco grant coordinator with Goodhue County Health & Human Services and Four Corners Partnership, a coalition of county health departments looking to reduce the harm caused by tobacco products.

Twenty-two properties with a combined 309 housing units went smoke free between Feb. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015, according to Four Corners Partnership’s annual report released last month. The organization had a goal of helping to convert 10 properties in its project area covering Goodhue, Rice, Steele and Dodge counties.

Wolff said Four Corners Partnership is especially pleased with Red Wing Housing Redevelopment Authority and Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which together banned smoking in 15 properties with 202 units for low-income renters.

“It’s difficult for low-income renters to find housing at all,” Wolff said, adding that individuals who rent through public housing authorities often have no choice but to live in homes that could be affected by neighbors’ smoking habits.

Air in multi-family housing typically flows freely between units through gaps in walls and ceilings, he said. “And if the air can move, smoke moves with it.”

Four Corners Partnership has been working with a Tobacco-Free Communities grant from the Minnesota Department of Health to meet property managers and explain smoke-free policies.

The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act allows smoking inside living units, but gives managers the authority to set a smoke-free policy if they wish.

In addition to the health of tenants and staff, banning smoking in rental units reduces cleaning and turnover costs and lowers the risk of fire damage and death, according to Four Corners Partnership.

Continuing work

For 2015, Four Corners Partnership has teamed with the state for a media campaign about the dangers of secondhand smoke. Ads feature a picture of an inhaler with statistics about childhood asthma caused by exposure to tobacco smoke.

Also this year the organization will begin working with local governments to advocate for smoke-free policies in outdoor places such as city parks and recreational facilities, Wolff said.

For more information on smoke-free rental policies and other smoking resources, visit

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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