Our Erie-Niagara team recently hosted a smoke-free housing forum at Niagara County Community College. Our colleagues from the Niagara County Department of Health Division of Environmental Health and the New York State Healthy Neighborhoods program joined us in educating, mobilizing and making change.
It was great to see a crowd of 50+ concerned, landlords, property management companies and community leaders share their first-hand accounts of the benefits and legalities of adopting smoke-free policies in their units. The forum included five speakers; Melissa Lask of Calamar, Inc.; Scott Russo of Q & D Management, Inc.; Daniel Corbitt of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME); Joan K. Spilman, regional director of the U.S. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Jonathan Schultz, director of emergency services and fire coordinator of Niagara County.
Jonathan Schultz shared that smoke-free buildings will ensure tenants’ safety. Noting that smoking at home is the number one cause of death by fire, he urged landlords that communication is a good first step in getting tenants to comply.
“Talk to tenants about the safety issues and risks of smoking,” said Schultz. “Chances are they also prefer to be smoke free and want to be respectful to their neighbors.”
Many landlords in the audience were concerned about tenants’ rights and how to adopt a smoke-free policy
HOME’s Daniel Corbitt put that concern to rest. “I’m here to say today that there are no federal, state or local laws that prohibit a landlord, a housing authority or a condominium association from adopting a smoke-free policy.”
Joan K. Spilman, regional director of HUD, spoke about the agency’s mission of improving the lives and protecting the health of limited-income families in Western New York. Smoke-free housing is a part of this goal.
“We encourage all our housing authorities and multi-unit administrators to consider developing smoke-free policies,” said Spilman.
Niagara County Public Health Director, Dan Stapleton, who shared welcoming remarks, was encouraged by the seminar’s attendance and what it means for the future of Niagara County. “Our collective hope, and collaborative action, is to eliminate smoking in housing units and prevent unnecessary disease, injury and death,” he emphasized. “Most important, we are helping landlords protect their tenants, as well as the properties their renters call home.
By Jenna Brinkworth, Community Engagement Manager, Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara
If you’re a tenant or a landlord who wants a smoke-free living space, contact Jenna Brinkworth, Community Engagement Manager of Tobacco-Free Roswell Park.