Meridian Star

January 4, 2013

MHA to go smoke-free in April

By Ida Brown /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Although the date the Meridian Housing Authority will begin to implement a non-smoking policy in all of the agency's facilities and residential dwellings is ironically April 1, there is no fooling about the seriousness of the matter.

    "This is a very serious matter that is two-fold for us," said MHA Executive Director Ron Turner Sr. "We are thinking about health issues that are affiliated with second-hand cigarette smoking. And from another perspective, we're talking about federal dollars that have been spent toward revitalizing public housing units that have been smoke damaged."

    The new MHA Board approved policy is strongly supported by MHA Resident Advisory Board leaders, who are encouraging healthy living habits for all residents in 2013, Turner said. Increased insurance and maintenance costs due to smoking led MHA to expedite efforts for board approval of the new policy.

    According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable disease in the United States. Elderly and youth populations residing in multi-unit properties, such as those owned and managed by the Meridian Housing Authority, as well as people with chronic illnesses, are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of smoking, according to reports.

    The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 documented that Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) or second-hand smoke can migrate between units in multifamily and public housing units causing respiratory illness, heart disease, cancer and other adverse health effects in neighboring families.

    MHA records also indicate that cigarette smoking is a proven source of major property damage and fire related injuries on several of its facilities, Turner said. Property management records indicate that thousands of dollars of increased maintenance cost occur when apartments are vacated by smokers.

    "We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating units that have been infiltrated with smoke – changing air filters, cleaning air ducts, replacing stained window blinds, replacing carpet damaged by cigarettes and repainting, often two and three coats to cover smoke stains – to make them 'occupancy ready,'" Turner said.

    Turner stressed that the smoking ban is not intended to infringe upon residents' rights.

    "Those individuals who want to continue smoking are permitted to do so until April 1. They need to go to their property manager's office to sign a form stating they want to continue smoking up until that date," he said. "This will allow them time to transition into the new policy."

    Because tobacco smoking is an addictive behavior, both MHA's Occupancy and Community and Supportive Service Departments will provide residents with referrals and information pertaining to local smoking cessation resources and programs especially during the policy transition period.