Starting Aug. 1, all Brainerd Housing and Redeveloppment Authority public housing properties will be smoke-free.
It was learned Thursday that the Brainerd HRA board of commissioners voted Feb. 23 to adopt a smoke-free policy for all properties that will go into effect Aug. 1. This will affect about 325 public housing units, including 162 units at the North Star Apartments, 16 units at scattered sites in the city, 25 units at Valley Trail, 60 units at Brainerd South Apartment, 24 units near College Drive, 18 units at Trail Ridge and 20 units at Valley View. This ban also includes outdoor property, such as the apartment parking lots.
Dale Parks, commission chair, said the Brainerd HRA has been strongly encouraged for the past two years by state housing officials and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to adopt a smoke-free policy. He said the Brainerd HRA commission has been discussing this issue for the past year and late last year surveyed residents on their thoughts on the policy.
“The majority of people who took the survey wanted to not have smoking,” Parks said. “I think it will be controversial but I do know there are people who have been pushing for a ban on smoking for quite some time.”
Parks said the HRA has been contacted by people who wanted smoke-free apartments for their elderly parents but there was no way the HRA could stop smoke from entering other apartments through the ventilation system without an all-out smoking ban. Parks said Morrison County, Pequot Lakes and Wadena HRAs also have adopted a similar ban, along with nearly 50 public housing authorities in the state.
Lucy Nesheim, Brainerd City Council member and a commission member, said the ban will begin Aug. 1, a delay that will give residents time to try to quit smoking.
“ A lot of people have strong allergies to smoke,” said Nesheim. “I think it’s important to discourage something that will jeopardize everybody’s health.”
Smoking can also be dangerous for residents in multi-family buildings in other ways. According to the Smoke Free Communities Multi-Unit Housing Program, a program that promotes smoke-free apartment living in central Minnesota, smoking is the leading cause of residential fire death in the state and around the country. In 2006, smoking caused two-thirds of multi-housing fire deaths in Minnesota. Twenty-five percent of victims of smoking-material fire fatalities are not the smoker whose cigarettes started the fire.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.