Fort Collins public housing to save $100,000 a year with no-smoking policy


Public housing goes smoke-free


By Bobby Magill  Bobbymagill@Coloradoan.Com  June 10, 2010


Beginning July 1, all Fort Collins Housing Authority homes will become smoke-free in an attempt to keep residents healthy and to save the city about $100,000 per year.


That's just fine with Natalie Barela, a smoker who lives in an FCHA unit on Emigh Street.


"I think it's good because it's a lot safer having my nephew come over," she said. "It's better not having (smoking) in the house because everything stinks and not just you."


Barela smokes out on the sidewalk in front of her home, something required by the city, which mandates smokers step at least 20 feet away from open doors and windows before they light up.


FCHA tenants were notified one year in advance of the smoke-free policy going into effect.


"Most tenants are pleased we've done this," said John Tuchscherer, federal programs and compliance manager for the FCHA.


He said FCHA decided to stop all smoking in public housing to keep tenants healthy, lower the risk of cigarette-caused house fires and to prevent expensive smoke-removal renovations to each unit when smokers move out.


Tuchscherer estimated FCHA has to spend about $5,000 on each of the 20 or so units annually that need heavy cigarette smoke residue removed. Going smoke-free, he said, will save the city nearly $100,000 each year.


So far, he said, at least two of the city's 714 public housing units have burned because of cigarettes.


Every tenant deserves to live in a public housing unit free of smokers' residue, known as "third-hand smoke," embedded in the floors, walls and furniture, said Andrea Clement-Johnson, tobacco prevention supervisor for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.


Chemicals in cigarette smoke residue embedded in a unit's interior surfaces can be harmful long after a tenant has stopped smoking, she said.


Those chemicals react with a nitrous acid, a common indoor pollutant, to form carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines, according to an FCHA statement.


When the city's new policy takes effect July 1, tenants will have to sign a lease addendum stating they will not smoke in their apartments.


For Barela, that's welcome news.


"If you put the pros and cons together, it's definitely a better thing," she said.