RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. – National Community Renaissance, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit community builders, is attacking a leading cause of death in the United States – secondhand smoke.
Collaborating with a variety of health agencies, the Rancho Cucamonga-based company is transitioning its entire portfolio of workplace, market rate and senior housing in California to smoke-free communities by Aug. 1, 2016.
“Fulfilling our mission of transforming lives begins with an awareness of how healthy living impacts individuals and entire communities,” said Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer of National CORE. “We believe this is a significant step in that direction, by addressing head-on one of the biggest health challenges we face as a country.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths and nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the U.S. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can damage cells and the lining of blood vessels, making you more vulnerable to cancer or heart disease.
Although statewide efforts to ban smoking at apartment communities have failed over the years, California law does permit landlords to designate any portion of their property – including the entire complex – as nonsmoking. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to eliminate smoking in all public-housing projects over the next 18 months to two years.
National CORE has begun informing its residents of the change and, working with local and county health agencies, will provide education on the benefits of smoke-free environments. Among those partner agencies: The California Health Collaborative for San Bernardino County, the Riverside County Department of Public Health, the Orange County Health Care Agency, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, S.A.F.E. (Smoke Free Air For Everyone) for Los Angeles County, and Vista Community Clinic (VCC) for San Diego County.
“It’s definitely a trend,” Gena Knutson, Program Manager for Vista Community Clinic for San Diego County, said of smoke-free apartment communities. “We started working with multi-unit housing in 2007, and in the past five years, we’ve seen a complete swing in how smoking is handled.”
Esther Schiller, Executive Director of S.A.F.E., has spent 20 years advocating for smoke-free apartments.
“You go to some buildings, and the smoke drifts are as dense as a gambling casino. That’s pretty scary,” she said. “We think that when we put up a wall it’s impervious, but in fact studies through the years have shown that smoke goes through minute cracks in walls and ceilings, and lingers in carpeting and paint.”
Schiller noted that since the smoke-free-building movement began in the late 1980s, the smoking rate among California adults has dropped from 25 percent to 12 percent.
PonTell said the efforts of S.A.F.E., VCC and National CORE’s other partners are critical to creating healthier communities.
“We’re not asking residents to quit smoking,” he said. “But by not allowing it on the property itself, we’re creating a healthier environment for everyone.”
[titled_box title=”The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke” variation=”silver”]
- Secondhand smoke (SHS) is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
- When non-smokers are exposed to SHS or ETS, it’s called involuntary smoking or passive smoking.
- Non-smokers who breathe in SHS take in nicotine and toxic chemicals the same way smokers do.
- The more SHS you breathe, the higher the levels of these harmful chemicals in your body.
About National CORE, Hope through Housing
National Community Renaissance, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of workplace, market rate and senior housing. National CORE manages nearly 9,000 affordable, senior and market-rate units in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. Hope through Housing was founded by National CORE in 1998 to provide life-changing social services to residents and communities. For more information on National CORE and Hope through Housing, please visit www.nationalcore.org.