Manatee's $30,000 grant designed to convert properties to "smoke-free"

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 3, 2012 

MANATEE -- A $30,000 grant has been awarded to the Manatee County Health Department to promote smoke-free policies in multiunit apartments, condos and dormitories.

The new program will help landlords who want to convert their properties to smoke-free dwellings, said Megan Jourdan, the health department's tobacco prevention program manager.

It is part of a multiyear grant from the Florida Department of Health.

The first five property owners to convert will be featured in a locally-broadcast, public service announcement sponsored by the health department, Jourdan said.

The program will pay for staff members to provide technical assistance in policy or lease language; signage; or the cost of reprints for pamphlets to advertise smoke-free

properties, she said.

The grant is also designed to provide access to free counseling and medicine for tenants who want to quit smoking.

"The goal is to work with multi-unit housing facilities to help adopt smoke-free policies," said Jourdan.

Advantages of smoke-free dwellings are two-fold, she said: It limits exposure to second-hand smoke, and helps to lower fire risks.

"Sixty percent of air flow in a multi-unit facility is shared between apartments," Jourdan said Tuesday. "So if your neighbor is a smoker, you're being exposed to second-hand smoke."

Exposure to second-hand smoke can cause cancer; trigger ear infections and asthma, and retard lung development in youngsters; and increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, she said. It can also aggravate pre-existing heart disease and respiratory conditions, she added.

Every year in the U.S., more than 392,000 die from tobacco-caused diseases, making it the leading preventable cause of death, according to the American Lung Association website. Another 50,000 people die from exposure to second-hand smoke, it said.

In addition to the health aspects, another advantage of converting to smoke-free properties is lower fire risks, insurance and cleanup costs, Jourdan said..

If smokers live in your building, you have to repaint, recarpet, and change out furniture once they move, she said.

"We're really trying to reach all of Manatee County, anyone who is interested, we're very happy to work with them," Jourdan said.

Already, the health department is hearing from landlords, who want to know what aid is available, said Jessie Hillman, the health department tobacco prevention specialist hired to handle the program.

"It's a cost-effective plan, and is very appealing to them in terms of the damage done to apartments inside when you smoke inside," she said.

"We're excited to implement this plan and it makes sense to everyone involved."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @saraswrites.com.

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