BRADENTON -- Tony Lear, a firefighter/EMT with the Southern Manatee Fire Rescue, deals with smoke in his work.
There's no way he wants it at home, he said recently.
Lear also is aware that studies have shown approximately 70 percent of air is shared between multi-unit housing.
Lear knows tobacco smoke can move along air ducts, through cracks in the walls and floors, through elevator shafts and along plumbing and electrical lines affecting units that are nearby.
"If someone is smoking in one apartment, their neighbor is most likely inhaling secondhand smoke," said Megan Jourden, community health specialist with the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County, also known as the Manatee DOH.
All that is why it was important to Lear and his wife, Kathryn, to find a Manatee County rental apartment in a completely non-smoking building.
The search wasn't as easy as he thought it would be.
There are roughly seven apartment and condos in Manatee County that have followed a current national trend and gone either completely or partially smoke-free so occupants won't have to breathe in secondhand smoke, Jourden said.
One of the seven is Lost Creek at Lakewood Ranch, owned by Community Property Management just off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, across the street from the Manatee Technical Institute's East Campus.
Not only did the Lears move in to Lost Creek, but Kathryn Lear liked it so much she got a job there as a leasing consultant.
"At Lost Creek you can not be within 20 feet of the smoke-free building while smoking, which really drives the point home," Tony Lear said. "I like that feature. I also like that all the amenities are smoke-free. I lived in an apartment before where I could smell cigarette smoke through the vents. I realized I was breathing in fumes."
Of Lost Creek's nine buildings, three are totally smoke-free, which comprises 96 of the 272 total units,
There is no price premium to rent a Lost Creek smoke-free building, Kathyrn Lear said.
The one, two and three bedrooms range from $1,000 to $2,000 per month regardless of what building they are in, Lear added.
The three smoke-free buildings were designated smoke-free before the complex opened in 2012.
"This is a very forward thinking company," Kathryn Lear said. "They try to accommodate people's lifestyle wishes."
As of early September, Lost Creek was completely filled, but vacancies are expected in October or November, Lear said.
Interestingly, although Kathryn Lear is hearing more and more from clients, "Do you have smoke free buildings?" she is also hearing that they are flexible and will take a smoking building if an apartment opens up first in one of them.
Tony Lear, however, believes it's just a matter of time before people may not be flexible about living in smoking buildings.
"I think smoke-free buildings will be a big selling point in the future," Tony Lear said. "People want specific things. People are educated and see the benefits of not smoking and they will not want to be in an area where they have a tendency to go back to that."
Kathryn Lear said it's still a balancing act for apartment managers, not wanting to alienate smokers but at the same time wishing to satisfy non-smokers.
But Lear does acknowledge that there are great advantages to Lost Creek's non-smoking apartment buildings.
"There is less smoking damage," Kathryn Lear said. "There is less odor."
The dangers of such secondhand smoke to people are well documented.
"Each year in the United States, exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 33,000 premature deaths from heart disease and 3,400 premature deaths from lung cancer among non-smokers," said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, Administrator of the Manatee DOH. "Infants exposed to secondhand smoke have a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and children who are exposed have a far greater risk of acquiring bronchitis and pneumonia."
Holy Cross Manor in Palmetto part of movement
In 2010, Holy Cross Manor II, which features low income housing for seniors at 540 26th St. W., Palmetto, was built as a totally smoke-free building for all 68 residents, said Nanci Huffer , regional property manager for Holy Cross Manor.
In 2006, Holy Cross Manor I was built without a non-smoking designation, but, five years ago, it went smoke free and grandfathered in existing smokers from the 68 units, Huffer said. There are still about six smokers living in Holy Cross I, Huffer added.
The non-smokers in Holy Cross I now complain about the smell of smoke in the hallways so door sweeps have been put on the doors of the smokers to keep the smoke in, Huffer said.
"There isn't much we can do because they are grandfathered in," Huffer said of the smokers.
Interestingly, Holy Cross I and II agreed to build a designated smoking area in a gazebo not attached to the buildings for residents or guests who smoke. Lost Creek at Lakewood Ranch decided to ban smoking within 20 feet of its non-smoking building.
But Huffer said the non-smokers are vigilant about making sure the smokers don't leave the gazebo.
When residents apply for Holy Cross II, they must agree to non-smoking terms in the lease. Huffer has had people apply who smoke but say they have decided to quit.
"If we change the AC filter and discover they have smoked, we inform them that they can be evicted," Huffer said.
Huffer said she knows of no resident who has had to be evicted due to violation of the non-smoking stipulation.
"Most of the residents are very grateful," Huffer said of the non-smoking building. "I have been told a lot of them are allergic to smoke and it is almost like a selling feature when we can say we have a non-smoking building."
Both buildings are funded by Housing and Urban Development.
DOH has a grant to help apartments go smoke-free
The Manatee DOH has grant funds available if people wish to attempt to create non-smoking condos or apartments, Jourden said.
"We have been trained to provide technical assistance to any apartment that wishes to become smoke-free," Jourden said.
Based on the requests they are getting, Jourden and other Manatee DOH officials believe the number of Manatee smoke-free multi-units will soon grow.
"The number of calls we have been receiving from apartment and condo residents who want to know how they can change their buildings to smoke-free has increased significantly over the past two years," Jourden said.
"We do applaud it," Jourden added.
Those interested in changing their condo or apartment to non-smoking are asked to call the Manatee DOH at 941-748-0747, ext. 1211.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.