SUNBURY - The Sunbury Housing Authority announced Thursday a smoke-free policy effective Jan. 1 that prohibits tobacco use indoors at Chestnut Tower and Scott Tower.

Executive Director Sandi Ressler said in a press release the new policy provides "a healthy and safe environment for our tenants and fits in with our mission to provide the best quality housing at an affordable price."

Secondhand smoke causes lung and heart disease and is estimated to result in more than 46,000 deaths per year in the United States, she noted. Smoke exposure worsens health conditions like asthma, too, she said, citing the Surgeon General.

"We applaud the Sunbury Housing Authority initiative," Thurman Brendlinger, program director of Clean Air Council, was quoted in the release. "It is especially beneficial to the vulnerable elderly who live in the towers."

The policy does not prohibit people who use tobacco from living or working at Scott or Chestnut Towers, but all indoor living and open areas are smoke free. The smoke-free policy applies to tenants, guests, employees, vendors and visitors.

Jenny Wagner, health educator from Clinical Outcomes Group Inc., has provided free services and products to several residents. Clinical Outcomes Group, a local provider, offers not only free counseling but also nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum and lozenges) to employees, tenants, friends and family who want to quit. Call 1-800-264-1290 or visit www.coginc.org.

Clinical Outcomes Group Inc. is funded by a grant from the Pa Department of Health. Telephone counseling to quit is also offered to all Pennsylvania residents through the PA Free Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW).