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Smoking ban sparks controversy

Some residents of Spangler Towers are smoking mad. That’s because on July 1, the 54-unit high rise apartment building will become entirely smoke free.
McMinnville Housing Authority, which operates the facility, made the decision based on safety concerns and the health benefits of living in a smoke-free environment.
“We did a survey and a good majority are for it,” said McMinnville Housing Authority executive director Patricia Basham. “But the ones who are against it are really against it. I feel bad for the people who live there who smoke, but this is a coming trend and it’s a safety issue.”
Basham said residents who smoke, even in their own apartments, increase the risk of the building catching on fire and having to be evacuated. She also said it’s dangerous to have smokers around so many people on oxygen – with some of the smokers on oxygen themselves.
“We’re hoping a few more people might want to live there because the building is smoke free,” said Basham.
But some smokers don’t view the ban as a positive development.
“To me, it’s invading our rights,” said Spangler Towers resident Carol York. “It’s not right to have to go outside to smoke, especially at night when who knows what could happen to you.”
Added smoker Vicki Fleming, “If we pay rent, we should at least be able to smoke in our rooms.”
Spangler Towers resident Dick Ross said he supports the ban.
“I’d much rather have the building smoke free,” said Ross.
Opinions on the smoking ban were all over the board.
“As long as they don’t smoke in my apartment, it doesn’t bother me,” said resident Carolyn Ashburn. “When you’re addicted to something, it’s hard to get over.”
Ashburn did say the thought of someone smoking who is on oxygen is a concern because of the possibility of an explosion.
McMinnville Housing Authority plans to build a gazebo outside to give residents shelter when they smoke, according to Basham. That plan wasn’t especially well received.
“That doesn’t do me any good if I want to smoke late at night,” said Fleming. “And it won’t be heated so we’ll freeze in the winter.”
Basham said residents are getting more than five months warning so they can transfer to another McMinnville Housing Authority facility that allows smoking if they wish. She said five-story Spangler Towers was selected to become a smoke-free building because of its difficulty to evacuate in case of emergency.
“I’d hate to leave, but I just might have to move,” said York.
The U.S. has more than 35 million smokers — about 20 percent of men and 18 percent of women. It was said Spangler Towers has 14 to 15 residents who smoke.
The smoking ban at Spangler Towers comes as the New England Journal of Medicine has released one of the most comprehensive looks ever at the long-term effects of smoking.
Among the findings:
• The risk of dying of lung cancer was more than 25 times higher for female smokers in recent years than for women who never smoked.
• A person who never smoked was about twice as likely as a current smoker to live to age 80. For women, the chances of surviving that long were 70 percent for those who never smoked and 38 percent for smokers. In men, the numbers were 61 percent and 26 percent.
• Smoking shaves more than 10 years off the average life span, but quitting at any age buys time. Quitting by age 40 avoids nearly all the excess risks of death from smoking. Men and women who quit when they were 25 to 34 years old gained 10 years; stopping at ages 35 to 44 gained 9 years; at ages 45 to 54, six years; at ages 55 to 64, four years.

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