Home is where the heart is, and a smoke-free home makes for a healthier heart. In observance of American Heart Month, Columbia-Greene Tobacco Free Action is putting the spotlight on local affordable multi-unit housing properties that offer smoke-free living. According to Lisa Heintz, Program Coordinator, there are 19 such facilities in the twin county area. Many of these are senior housing, but a few serve low and mid-income individuals and families.

The largest of these is Hudson Terrace, which has had two smoke-free buildings since a major renovation in 2011, and is now finalizing plans to transition to a completely smoke-free property, inclusive of all 13 buildings and 168 living units. The policy will be implemented in two phases, the first beginning this spring.

Sarah Finch, Site Manager, says that the owners of Hudson Terrace want to provide a safe and healthy living environment for all residents. “With the availability of two and three bedrooms, we are very much a family-oriented property, with lots of kids everywhere. This is the right thing to do.”

Before New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act was passed in 2003, most exposure to secondhand smoke for adults occurred in the workplace. Now it’s the home where children and non-smokers are most likely to be exposed. Most people, whether they own or rent, do not allow smoking in the home. This is true even when the household includes a smoker. But for those who rent, living in a smoke-free environment may not be as easy because secondhand smoke can drift from neighboring apartments in the same building. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 3 non-smokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke and the harmful chemicals it contains are known causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children. They are also known causes of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer in adult non-smokers.

During the month of February, Tobacco Free Action is also conducting outreach to a wide range of subsidized housing providers in the area. Lisa Heintz says that people with limited income have the fewest alternatives when it comes to putting a roof over their heads and are often most vulnerable to the health risks of secondhand smoke. “Ideally, all affordable housing providers would provide the option of a smoke-free building. We want them to know that we can help them make it happen.” For more information, contact Lisa Heintz at 518-822-0999 or lisaheintz@columbiahealthnet.org