In an effort to provide safer, cleaner rentals, Commissioners of the Merrill Housing Authority took the first steps in initiating No Smoking/Flame-Free Policies for all of their tenants at Park Place, Jenny Towers, Westgate Apartments and other scattered family sites throughout the Merrill Community.  
The negative health risks associated with second-hand smoke have been widely proven for years by accredited research institutions such as the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association.  Many public facilities such as bars, restaurants and hotels have already made changes to eliminate the impact of second-hand smoke to their customers and clients as have many workplaces.   
Residents living in public housing facilities such as Park Place and Jenny Towers are greatly impacted by second-hand smoke because of the shared ventilation systems within the buildings while families, whether in adjoining units or individual homes, are also affected, especially those with young children.
Besides the negative health impact second-hand smoke causes, there is the added danger of fires resulting from cigarettes, smoking in bed or where oxygen tanks are in use, or even children playing with lighters and matches.  These types of fires are devastating enough when they occur in an individual home, but when they happen in large apartment buildings filled with elderly or multiple young families, the potential tragedy is compounded.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been encouraging housing facilities across the country to implement smoke-free housing for several years now. Not only do smoke-free facilities reduce health and safety risks, but they also lower costs to tax payers in smoke related maintenance costs and insurance costs.  
Many other area Housing Authorities have already implemented such smoke-free policies including Rhinelander, Tomahawk, Abbotsford, Wausau, and Wisconsin Rapids.  While these facilities agree that the change was not easy made, none have reversed their policies and many now benefit by being able to offer smoke-free housing.
While the policies have not officially been enacted, tenants have been presented with drafts of the policies to allow them time to comment and share their thoughts and concerns with the Board.   Tenants may submit their comments to the Board in writing, or come to the June 11 Commissioners Meeting held at the Jenny Towers Library at 4 p.m. where a public comment session will be held. The final vote on the matter will occur at the July meeting.  If approved, the Commissioners plan to offer on-site quit-smoking programs for those tenants who would like to take this opportunity to quit smoking.