Saratoga County apartment complexes are voluntarily following suit when it comes to providing smoke-free facilities.
Since autumn, the Tobacco Free Coalition has been working with landlord and apartment complex owners to clear up misconceptions about going smoke-free and providing them the materials to do so.
The latest building to go smoke-free is a Embury Apartments, a subsidized senior complex in Saratoga Springs. The complex went smoke-free on Sunday, Feb. 17.
There are some residents that have been here a long time. They are smokers and will be grandfathered in. It’s a process (going smoke-free). The residents had mentioned it, some were more adamant than others. Generally they don’t mind going smoke-free, and we thought it was time, said Director of Housing Nikki Ferguson, who worked with program coordinators at the Southern Adirondack Tobacco Free Coalition.
Through services and money made possible by the state Department of Health, Tobacco Coalition coordinators have been sitting down with area complex owners as part of the `Multi-Dwelling Unit Project.`
The objective is to help area complexes go smoke-free for health reasons and safety concerns as well, said Janine Stuchin, project manger at Southern Adirondack Tobacco Free Coalition.
`The biggest barriers we find is the property owners think there are legal issues with banning smoking. Property owners just need to know they can do it and how to do it,` said Stuchin.
The regional effort is advising property owners that smoke-free policies are legal and similar to pet policies, she said. The property owner has the right to go smoke-free, she said, and recent studies show that the vast majority of tenants at multi-unit complexes would prefer to live in a smoke-free environment.
According to state polls, 70 percent of consumers report preferring smoke-free housing, and 50 would pay more to live there, according to the Tobacco Free Coalition.
Embury has 208 apartments with 230 people living in the facility, said Ferguson. All residents are 62 or older and only a handful smoke, she said. As part of going smoke-free, the complex, in conjunction with the Coalition and state Department of Health, is offering smoking cessation literature and programs to help seniors looking got kick the habit. Some have made good on the opportunity while others said they will continue to smoke but don’t mind the facility going smoke free, said Ferguson.
`It’s a position here that we support them (the tenants) the best we can. We know that the time is right for this, and the tide of public opinion is going in the other direction,` she said.
For the first time in the complex’s 36-year history, prospective tenants are asking if the facility is smoke-free. It is something the facility was never asked before, said Ferguson. And for some seniors and their families, it is becoming a deciding factor in where seniors are going to live.
The smoke-free complex is one of a long list of other senior living communities, from Glens Falls to Saratoga, that have also chosen to enact no-smoking policies, according to the Coalition.
Complex owners are finding that there is demand for smoke-free living not only because of health benefits, but because buildings are safer, cleaner and have more appeal.
Going smoke-free is also reducing the insurance bills of many of the complexes, said Stuchin.
Embury’s official policy is no smoking in any public places, a long-standing policy. An outdoor smoking area has been designated away from the complex’s main entrance, and once grandfathered tenants leave, those rooms will no longer allow smoking.
The Southern Adirondack Tobacco Free Coalition is asking all complex or property owners looking to go smoke free to contact Program Coordinator Jen Sheerer at 581-1230, extension 21.“