On Monday April 1, the St James Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) marked its new smoke-free housing policy with an open house reception at Park Apartments.

This event represented a culmination of efforts involving the HRA and the Cottonwood-Jackson-Faribault-Martin-Watonwan Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to promote a healthier environment for their residents. Monday, April 1 was the day the new policy went into effect.

Approximately 50 residents and community members were on present and were entertained with piano music and were served cake and coffee. A certificate of recognition was presented to Linda Blackstad, HRA Executive Director, Melissa Wilson, HRS Assistant Director, and Ray Hanefelt, HRA Board Chairman. Hahnfeldt stated “Our goal is to promote a safe, healthy living community for our residents.”

The smoke-free policy covers all units, all common areas, and 25 feet around the perimeter of the building with the exception of the patio. The policy also includes e-cigarettes in their definition of tobacco products that are prohibited. “The health and well being of residents is our top priority. A smoke-free building is safer and contributes to a better living environment and we can eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke,” Blackstad said.

Kay Lang, a resident of Park Apartments stated “I am happy that my grandchildren and visitors won’t have to breathe in secondhand smoke, and I know other residents feel the same way.“ We want Park Apartments to be a home all us can enjoy,” said Lang. “We were all surveyed about our smoking behaviors and if we supported a smoke-free policy. The survey showed that a majority wanted smoke-free living here.”

Blackstad is excited to see the policy go into effect. New signs have been placed on apartment property including at the parking lot entrance, on the front door, and signs will be placed around the building to indicate that smoking is only allowed 25’ from the building and on the patio.

“The Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) from Cottonwood-Jackson-Faribault-Martin- Watonwan (CJFMW) Counties has been a tremendous support in our effort to adopt this policy. Not only did they help in the development of the policy, but they provided funding for events and signage.” Blackstad commented. “Bonnie Frederickson, SHIP Community Specialist was here to educate our Board and tenants along the way and was here to help us celebrate today. SHIP also provided multiple options for smoking cessation help. This partnership with SHIP can help other apartment buildings go smoke-free and I would highly recommend this to other HRA’s and apartment building managers and owners.”

“The smoke-free policy at Park Apartments will enhance their mission to offer a healthy environment. They are doing a wonderful thing for their residents and community by promoting better public health and a completely smoke-free living environment ” said Frederickson, Community Specialist for the CJFMW SHIP. “In Minnesota and across the nation, owners and managers of multi-unit housing are adopting and implementing voluntary smoke-free policies for their apartments to protect tenants from exposure from secondhand smoke. This is the only way that tenants are fully protected,” Frederickson said. SHIP has also worked with Live Smoke Free—a non-profit program that promotes smoke-free apartments living throughout Minnesota.