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Residents in a co-op building at Hilltop Village in Hollis can breath easy in their apartments now that it has snuffed out cigarettes and is completely smoke-free.
“I wish they did the same where I live,” said Mindy Rodriguez, who lives in the neighborhood and was walking her dog in front of Hilltop Village, at 87-50 204th St. “I don’t like smoking to begin with and when I start thinking about possible fires, I really start to worry.”
Two organizations are working to tamp out that worry and extinguish smoking, making the borough healthier for smokers and non-smokers alike.
Representatives from North Shore-LIJ Health System and Queens Smoke Free Partnership, a health advocacy nonprofit funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the state Department of Health, are trying to clear the smoke from residential housing units in Queens by alerting building owners to the heath and safety risks of smoking.
“Much of the air in apartment buildings is shared among the residents,” said Yvette Buckner-Jackson, the borough manager for Queens Smoke Free Partnership. “This air travels through the unit through vents, cracks, outlets — it’s a huge issue.”
Nancy Copperman, director of community health for LIJ, has been working with YMCAs and other groups in Queens to limit the public’s exposure to secondhand smoke. She said that health problems associated with smoking do not stay within the walls of a smoker’s apartment.
“When you are exposed to cigarette smoke 24/7, there is an increased chance for asthma, respiratory infections and over time cancer and heart disease,” said Copperman. “We have banned smoking in restaurants, workplaces and parks, but where we live and spend the most time is where the most exposure occurs.”
Buckner-Jackson cited two properties in Queens in particular that have eliminated smoking in apartment units — the properties include an apartment complex, at 34-28 80th St. in Jackson Heights as well as the co-op in Hollis. In these two instances, the smoke-free advocates said building owners were receptive, though that is not always the case.
“There’s about a 50/50 chance we’ll be turned away,” said Copperman, adding that they are trying to push for smoke-free units in Bayside, Astoria, Glendale and Forest Hills.
Copperman said there is some push back from people who say banning smoking in people’s homes is a violation of personal rights, but she went on to say that this is different than a ban on sugary drinks and trans fats because smoking affects more than just the user.
“It’s more of a violation of the rights of people around the smoker,” she said, adding that policing a smoking ban is akin to the monitoring of noise complaints.
Buckner-Jackson said she believes education has been key in the decrease of public smoking and hopes more education will lead to a decrease in residential smoking as well.
“The smoking numbers have declined and I truly believe that most smokers want to quit,” she said. “They need education and they need to know there are treatments out there. No one has to quit cold turkey anymore.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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