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Sharpsburg Towers to ban smoking

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, 5:06 p.m.
Sharpsburg Towers resident Joeann Jones looks on as HealthSouth liaison Denise Kaminski plays games and passes out free items during a luncheon based on smoke cessation.
Sharpsburg Towers resident Joeann Jones looks on as HealthSouth liaison Denise Kaminski plays games and passes out free items during a luncheon based on smoke cessation.

Sharpsburg resident Bill English wishes he was a quitter.

In 52 years as a smoker, English has undergone hypnosis and acupuncture to help him kick the habit. He's chewed nicotine gum and worn the patch.

“I can't stop,” English said earnestly. “It's just very difficult for me.”

His compulsion might necessitate a move from his home at Sharpsburg Towers, which on March 1 will institute a smoking ban for residents in their apartments and on the building property at 601 Main St.

“It's all very nice people here and I don't want to break the rules, so I'll probably move,” English said.

Ohio-based National Church Residences operates the complex. The management is eyeing health and safety with the new rule, said Sandy Grillo, assistant manager.

“It has to be done,” she said. “The consensus is that the residents don't want it.”

Of the 103 residents at Sharpsburg Towers, about 25 percent smoke. Currently, they are permitted to do so in their apartments but not in any common areas like the social hall, library or exercise room.

Once the ban takes effect, smokers won't be able to smoke anywhere on the property. They'll have to walk about a block to get off property before they light up. There is a parking lot in the rear of the building that they will have to cross to smoke as well.

Resident Theresa Dorney, 81, is a former smoker who is sympathetic to neighbors who will be impacted.

“I quit 13 years ago cold turkey, but I still crave it,” Dorney said.

Conversely, Hazel Sharkey, 76, is counting down the days until the habit is snuffed out. She said the smoke stinks and it fills the halls with heavy haze.

“I don't like being around it,” she said. “You can tell which apartments have smokers when you walk past.”

Sharkey said she will be one of many friends who lend encouragement to English and other smokers in the next month. “I'll call Bill and encourage him,” she said.

The building's service coordinator, Janice Grey, hosted a Jan. 28 program on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and smoking cessation.

“We've been encouraging residents to avail themselves to UPMC St. Margaret's smoke-free workshops,” Grey said.

Denise Kaminski, a senior liaison from HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Center, spoke about the health benefits. “Second-hand smoke is just as dangerous,” Kaminski said. “It doesn't take that long to heal the body from the effects of smoking either.”

Within two weeks of quitting, lung function increases and circulation improves, she said.

Grey invites Kaminski to speak to residents every three months with health-related tips.

“It's about preventing them from going into the hospital and keeping them independent,” Kaminski said.

The Allegheny County Housing Authority has been moving toward a smoke-free environment for about five years. At least four buildings a year are converted to non-smoking, said Executive Director Frank Aggazio. Blawnox is among them; it went smoke-free about four years ago.

“The authority has been undertaking this as a result of three multimillion-dollar fires caused by smoking,” Aggazio said. “Unit turnover costs are higher for smokers and the health of the residents is a concern.”

He said many residents complain about smelling smoke through apartment vents. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is pursuing prohibiting smoking in all public housing within 18 months, Aggazio said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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