News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Pine River Place apartments go smoke-free
Charlevoix Housing Commission policy applies to new residents as well as
guests and staff; Current residents who smoke are exempted

(November 4, 2009) The Charlevoix Housing Commission has adopted a smoke-free policy for its 62-unit Pine River Place apartments for the elderly and disabled, public health officials announced today. The policy applies to all new residents as well as guests and staff. Current residents who are smokers are exempted from the policy for as long as they live in their current unit.

Under this new policy, secondhand smoke and other damage caused by smoking or tobacco products will not be considered ordinary wear and tear, and some or all of the residents' security deposit may be retained by the housing commission to cover costs of damage caused by smoking or tobacco products; damage above and beyond the amount of the security deposit may be billed to the resident.

It is also residents' responsibility to take steps to keep smoking residue from building up in units, such as frequent cleaning. Annual inspections of units will be utilized to ensure that apartment residents are following this part of the policy.

Charlevoix is the 32nd public housing commission in Michigan to adopt a smoke-free policy, and has joined 55 other apartment buildings/developments and over 60 townhouses/scattered site units for a total of at least 4,158 apartment units in Michigan covered by the local housing authority smoke-free policies. Charlevoix makes the third housing commission in the Health Department's four-county jurisdiction to adopt smoke-free policies; East Jordan and Elk Rapids adopted smoke-free policies in 2006.

"It has been a pleasure working with Rob Harrison, the Executive Director of the Charlevoix Housing Commission on this policy," said Bert Notestine, coordinator of the smoke-free apartments initiative for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "Rob is a real health advocate for the residents of Pine River Place. He understands the threat secondhand smoke poses for residents. Unfortunately, secondhand smoke doesn't stay in smokers' apartments; it seeps into neighbors' living quarters, causing health risks."

According to Jim Bergmann, Executive Director of the Smoke-Free Environment Law Project, smoke-free apartment buildings are becoming the wave of the future and their numbers are increasing virtually daily. "As the serious health effects of secondhand smoke have become better understood, seepage into apartments and condominiums has emerged as a growing area of controversy for tenants and building owners alike," he said. "Clearly, virtually all tenants find secondhand smoke, which enters their residence from their neighbors, to be an annoyance and a discomfort, but for some persons it is also a cause of serious illness or significant health problems."

"Apartment owners have realized that it is legal to have smoke-free policies, and they have a desire to protect the health and safety of all residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke and from smoking-related fires," said Erika Van Dam, Family & Community Health Services Supervisor, who coordinates the Tobacco Reduction Coalition. "An estimated 24 non-smokers die each year in the Health Department’s four-county Health District from the effects of secondhand smoke." From a financial standpoint, a smoke-free policy significantly reduces maintenance, cleaning, and replacement expenses. Charlevoix Housing Commission could have cost savings well over $2,000 to $6,000 per unit due to their new policy, she said.

Encouraging apartment complexes to adopt smoke-free policies is one of the Tobacco Reduction Coalition's goals for fiscal year 2010. The Tobacco Reduction Coalition of Northwest Michigan is looking for new members who represent health-related organizations and concerned citizens. The next Tobacco Reduction Coalition meeting will be held at 11:30 AM, Tuesday, November 17th, at the Health Department office in Emmet County on Harbor-Petoskey Road.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about smoke-free apartments or transitioning your apartment building to a smoke-free status in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, or Otsego counties, or about the Tobacco Reduction Coalition, contact Van Dam at 347-6014.