LENOX -- The town's public housing is going smoke-free, a move the majority of tenants welcome for health and safety reasons.
As of Tuesday, Lenox Housing Authority will prohibit the use of tobacco products at its downtown Curtis apartments, Turner Terrace and two handicap accessible homes, according to LHA Executive Director, Martha Joyner.
Joyner says the Lenox ban affects 146 people living in 122 units, a large majority of those surveyed -- including some smokers -- agreed to support.
"We've had a couple of success stories of people who have already quit smoking and, so far, they're happy with themselves," she said.
Nancy Wallingford, 80, is among the Curtis dwellers embracing the smoking ban, having kicked the habit herself three years ago.
"I'm very happy I did .. quit cold turkey," she said. "I decided it was ridiculous [to smoke], expensive and it bothered other people."
"Just what happened in April is reason enough to do it," added Bill Weigard.
Weigard was among the 59 Curtis residents temporary displaced April 11 by an fire -- unrelated to smoking.
Lenox, along with North Adams earlier this month, are the first Berkshire municipal housing authorities to institute a smoking ban. Since 2009, 21 other housing authorities covering 47 cities and towns have prohibited tobacco use, with another 27 expected to join the list by Jan. 1 2015.
The Lee Housing Authority is scheduled to go smoke-free April 1; Pittsfield and Adams housing authorities will make the switch possibly by next summer, according to local and state health officials.
Tri-Town Health Department Executive Director James Wilusz isn't surprised public housing is the latest entity to implement smoking bans.
"Even in large cities like Springfield and Boston, over 70 percent of the tenants wanted to go smoke-free," said Wilusz.
Through Tri-Town Health's state-funded Tobacco Awareness program, the Lee-based public health agency worked with Lenox to phase in the smoking ban. Wilusz says the process began several months ago so tenants who smoke would have time to adjust to the new policy.
"If you're going smoke-free don't do it in 30 days; take a year for people to adapt," he said.
In North Adams, the housing authority partnered with the Berkshire Area Health Education Center (AHEC) to develop the month-old smoking ban affecting roughly 1,100 tenants at four public housing complexes.
Housing Authority Executive Director Jennifer Hohn reports few problems with the month no smoking policy, one expected to enhance the quality of life for current and future residents.
"I think it increases the attractiveness of our housing as more people will want to come here," she said.
Furthermore, a tobacco prohibition reduces maintenance costs for housing authorities, according to Joyner
"To refurbish a [Lenox] unit where someone has smoked for years costs upwards of $5,000 -- that's taxpayer money," she said.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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