BROOKFIELD, Wis. – According to the American Lung Association, more than 80 percent of Wisconsinites have a no-smoking policy inside their homes, and increasingly, renters are demanding smoke-free buildings.
This week marks the 7th anniversary of Wisconsin’s Smoke-Free Air Law, which was aimed at protecting non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Health experts say there is no safe level of secondhand smoke.
Jaime Zach, the smoke-free multi-unit housing coordinator for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, says whatever initial resistance there was to the law is now long gone.
“Property owners, managers, they’re starting to see the financial benefits of being smoke-free with reduced maintenance and turnover costs, plus the decreased chance of fire, and I think they’re also starting to hear success stories from their peers on the ease of enforcement and the positivity that their residents are giving them as well,” she explains.
Zach says surveys have shown that more than half of renters are concerned about secondhand smoke from other units affecting their health. Even sophisticated ventilation systems don’t stop secondhand smoke from leaking into other units.
According to Zach, the majority of renters prefer smoke-free housing and many are willing to pay more to avoid secondhand smoke.
“Clear Gains is Wisconsin’s smoke-free housing initiative, and our program has seen a pretty drastic increase in requests in finding smoke-free housing for people,” she says. “And it’s certainly not unusual to get calls from residents asking for help to get their managers to make their current building go smoke-free.”
Zach says attitudes have really changed over the past few years.
“Everyone has a right to breathe clean air, and with a successful almost seven years under our belt, a lot of our youths don’t even remember smoking being allowed at places like restaurants,” she adds. “Concerns that business owners might have had about losing customers never materialized over the long term and I think a lot of new customers came in, in support of those entities for being smoke-free.”
The American Lung Association says eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.