SPOKANE, Wash. – Feb. 9, 2017 - Spokane Regional Health District’s (SRHD) Board of Health (BOH) recently passed guidelines and recommendations that back smoke-free policies specific to worksites and housing in Spokane County. These efforts are intended to support area employers, as well as managers of multiunit housing (apartments, condominiums, etc.) properties, encouraging them to adopt policies that protect people from secondhand smoke exposure. By reducing tobacco use on these properties, the policies also make a more supportive environment for people who have quit or who are trying to quit smoking.
Said BOH Chair and City of Millwood Mayor, Kevin Freeman, “Exposure to secondhand smoke is known to cause disease and premature death among nonsmokers. As a board, we are responsible for creating and promoting prudent health policy that helps protect this community from such threats. Even individuals who are not directly impacted by these policies will benefit as we begin to see reduced burden on our health care system and outcomes like reductions in hospital admissions for heart attacks.”
Housing properties are not subject to Washington’s Smoking in Public Places (SIPP) law, while worksites are, but only to a certain degree. Smoke- and tobacco-free policies help housing managers protect people in the absence of a state or local laws, and worksite policies can complement the existing SIPP law. For example, worksite policies can prohibit smoking and the use of any tobacco products on the entire property, or can designate specific locations where it can occur, so long as these are consistent with SIPP law.
To foster smoke-free worksites and housing, the board’s resolution touts two toolkits for use by employers and property owners who are ready to implement policies—1) Smoke- and Tobacco-free Worksites: A guide to implementing a policy that protects employee and community health and 2) Step-by-Step Guide to Smoke-Free Housing.
The toolkits help decision-makers:
• determine what kind of policy is best for them
• understand the steps needed to become smoke-free
• review sample policy documents
• get answers to frequently asked questions
• learn about resources to help people quit
In addition to utilizing the toolkits, the board also encourages stakeholders to utilize the free technical assistance provided by SRHD when developing their policies.
Reducing tobacco use remains a high priority for the health district as tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death locally, as well as across the U.S. In Spokane County, 15.7% of adults report being current smokers. Heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease—all of which smoking is known to contribute to—remain in the top five of leading causes of death in the county.
Specific to risks for non-smokers, secondhand smoke contains numerous harmful chemicals, more than 50 of which are known to cause cancer. Exposure can cause lung cancer, heart disease, exacerbation of asthma, higher incidence of respiratory illness, and other adverse effects on respiratory health.
When it comes to worksites, rules can apply to employees, customers and guests and can include the use of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and other combustible products that produce smoke or vapor, and may also include the use of smokeless tobacco.
Through use of the toolkit, employers can also explore a policy not to hire new people who use these products. A smoke- or tobacco-free worksite has benefits beyond protecting the health of the public, including many benefits for employers, such as increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, lower medical expenditures, and improved success for employees who have quit.
In living situations where multiple tenants live within one/several buildings, and where in-unit smoking is allowed, residents can be exposed to smoke through ventilation systems, windows, cracks in floors and walls, stairways, elevator shafts, and other routes. The health district frequently responds to complaints from residents who are experiencing health issues resulting from this secondhand smoke exposure.
Implementing a policy, as encouraged by SRHD’s board, is the best way to prevent secondhand smoke exposure for tenants. Property owners also benefit from lower cleaning costs, shorter turnaround time between unit rentals, lower risk of fire, and may pay lower insurance premiums. Smoke-free policies can also help owners attract and retain renters. Approximately 80 percent of Spokane County does not smoke, as well as local surveys showing that the majority of smokers prefer living in a smoke-free building.
To get print copies of the toolkits, visit www.srhd.org or call SRHD’s Tobacco Prevention and Control program at 509.324.1530.
More information can be found at www.srhd.org. SRHD’s website offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.