Residents find smoke-free policy at ‘PJAM’ a breath of fresh air

When Vivian Simpson and her 10-year-old grandson Jonathan heard that their apartment complex in the Oak Park neighborhood of San Diego would go completely smoke-free, they were understandably relieved.

Jonathan suffers from asthma, and Vivian is a cancer survivor, so second-hand smoke is a health issue for them – as it is for everyone.

“This will help me breathe better,” Jonathan said. “I don’t breathe as well around smoke.”

Vivian says it was difficult to escape smoke at the complex.

PJAM

“Wherever people are smoking, it affects you if you are nearby,” she said. “This makes it easier on those of us who don’t want the smoke around.”

Second-hand smoke exposure kills 44,000 people every year, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. It impacts vulnerable populations, like children and seniors, as well as low-income residents. It’s an ongoing problem in multi-unit housing settings, such as apartment complexes, and one-third of California residents live in multi-unit housing. Given the many good reasons to do so, some complexes are voluntarily adopting policies to protect tenants.

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, through its Healthy Works program, is helping multi-unit complexes throughout San Diego County plan and implement no-smoking policies that end smoking—indoors and outdoors—at the complexes. The County has contracted with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego to work with multi-unit housing complexes on developing and implementing these no-smoking policies.

The 300-unit President John Adams Manor Apartments—known in the community as PJAM—will bar smoking anywhere on the property as of Jan. 1, 2014.

President John Adams Manor Apartments has already heard encouraging remarks from residents eager for the policy. A survey of residents early on in the process indicated a sizable majority desired the no-smoking policy.

“We have been diligently striving to make this a quality place to live,” said Teci Mayo, Community Manager for PJAM. “After receiving numerous complaints from residents about second-hand smoke, we decided to research the possibility of going smoke-free. After talking to SAY San Diego and our management team, it was a go. We hosted an information class to help with quitting, and a community health fair. With our community garden in full swing, and a new community fitness trail, PJAM will be an even healthier property in 2014.”

Such policies are essential to good community health, County officials say.

“Smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing settings make sense for everyone,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Child Health Medical Officer for the County. “Smoke-free policies help parents, as they can protect their children’s health by preventing exposure to smoke-filled environments. By eliminating second-hand smoke, we help reduce incidences of asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that infants who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are at greater risk for SIDS. Everyone affected by second-hand smoke enjoys a chance for better health when smoke is eliminated.”

Smoke-free policies also make business sense.

“Multi-unit housing complexes have realized the overwhelming economic benefit to having smoke-free policies,” Dr. Sidelinger said. “These benefits include fewer tenant complaints, lower turnover costs, fewer residential fires, and reduced property insurance rates. Smoke-free properties are also seen as an amenity to prospective tenants.”

Mary Baum, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Prevention Program Manager for SAY San Diego, said that PJAM serves as a community role model for multi-unit housing.

“SAY San Diego is very proud of our partnership with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, American Cancer Society, President John Adams Manor, and our other partners on celebrating PJAM's decision to protect their residents by implementing a voluntary smoke-free housing policy for their apartment community,” Baum said. “SAY San Diego has worked closely with PJAM on other programs like Crime Free Multi-Unit Housing to support healthy and safe communities, and to educate residents. We congratulate PJAM on going smoke-free.”

SAY San Diego is now working with other multi-unit complexes on planning smoke-free policies.

Healthy Works is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. Healthy Works is part of Live Well San Diego, the County’s strategic vision to improve health, safety and well-being for all residents.