Concern over health, the environment, and an evolving legal landscape has prompted a number of condo and co-op boards in communities across New Jersey to ban cigarette smoking not only in common outdoor areas but in individual units. This restriction has ignited a heated debate over health/nuisance vs. individual rights, and both sides can be vehement in advocating for their position.
At the Governor’s two-day Conference on Housing and Economic Development in September 2011 at the Atlantic City Convention Center, a wide-ranging group of speakers gathered to address the benefits and challenges of enacting a smoke-free policy from the perspectives of a nonprofit resource organization, housing ownership and management.
Karen Blumenfeld, Esq., executive director, Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP), Lynn Rosner, Health Education, Family Care Coordinator, and Tobacco Dependence Specialist CTTS, Camden County Department of Health and Human Services, and Steve Tancer, director of the property management group at RPM Development Group in Montclair, were guest speakers on the panel ‘Smoke-Free Multifamily Buildings,’ to discuss what they believe is an emerging trend in housing in the Garden State. Robert Sasso, director of property management at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) acted as moderator.
“By and large everyone likes [building-wide smoking bans],” said Tancer. “It keeps the hallways cleaner and it smells better. There was virtually no resistance.” He also pointed out numerous benefits for property managers of going smoke free: lower maintenance costs because no one has to sweep up cigarette butts, lower insurance costs, and faster turnaround times on available units due to the fact smoke residue isn’t embedded in wall paint and carpet.
Nearly one third of RPM’s 25 properties are completely smoke-free, including buildings in Newark, Orange and Somerset and two dozen public and private housing properties now prohibit smoking in private areas throughout New Jersey, according to the Summit-based GASP.