Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Personal Look at Secondhand Smoke in Multifamily Housing

[ Email to the White Plains Common Council and the media on March 7, 2009. ]

A month ago, I wrote asking you to ban smoking in multifamily housing in White Plains.

Today I would like to personify the problem with a recent letter.

The author is an elementary school teacher, dedicated to her students, and involved in the community. Your children or grandchildren are probably in her classes.

February 23, 2009

To Bryant Gardens Board Members,

I am writing with great concern about the second hand smoke infiltrating my apartment (Building XX Apt. XX) and its effects on my health. The smell of cigarette smoke in my apartment can be quite overwhelming at times. It is permeating my personal belongings and causing headaches and stomach aches. I’ve been forced to open windows or light scented candles to diffuse the smell.

I am fairly certain that the smoke is coming from the apartment below me, Apt. XX, as the smell of smoke is worse inside my apartment than it is in the hallway. Should you contact Ms. Xxxxx in Apt. XX, I’d appreciate it if you would not use my name specifically.

I thoroughly enjoy living at Bryant Gardens, however, it deeply saddens me that my health is being compromised by living here. Any support you can offer would be greatly appreciated. If you need to get in touch with me, I’d be happy to speak with you. My cell phone number is 914-XXX-XXXX.


Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxx

The writer, a single woman in her thirties, has only herself to worry about. Two doors down, another teacher is eight months pregnant and worries both about four year old Xxxxxxxx and the child on the way. She should. The downstairs smoker isn't the only one in the building.

The Board is concerned, too, but limited technologically and legally.

We can't get rid of the secondhand smoke.
We know that current air conditioning and ventilating systems can't control secondhand smoke (see attached), and while air cleaning systems remove the large, odor-causing particles, they miss the myriad smaller carcinogens.

We can't get rid of the smokers.
Residents are obligated by the proprietary lease and the House Rules to keep smoke from escaping into the building, but if they don't respond to letters, fines, and notices to cure, there is little chance of obtaining relief in the courts at present.

It's up to you.
Our hands are tied. It's up to you, the Common Council, to enact legislation to ban smoking in multifamily housing. There are literally thousands of non-smoking White Plains apartment dwellers sick and dying for relief.