Tipping Point: Arizona Smoke Free-Living Joins National Movement to Create Healthier Environments


In June 2012, the American Lung Association in Arizona (ALAA) received a Community Transformation Grant (CTG) from the American Lung Association National Office to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for people who live in multi-unit housing (MUH) communities in Maricopa County. The project focuses on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-funded housing serving disabled, senior, and low-income families. Reducing smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke and improving indoor air quality in MUH communities will result in long-term reductions in the health toll and healthcare costs. The target for the program is for ten public housing properties to transition to smokefree indoor environments with the support of the American Lung Association in Arizona and collaborating community partners.

Building the Foundation: A Collaborative Approach

A small group of like-minded leaders began to meet regularly in 2007 to work on tobacco-free education and outreach in a multitude of environments. One area this small coalition touched on was multi-unit housing communities. The CTG program made it possible for the American Lung Association to become active and assume a strong role in this coalition. Meetings grew from four attendees each month to approximately 20 who now consistently attend. The number of participating organizations went from three (Arizonans Concerned About Smoking, Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Tanner Community Development Corporation) to twelve. The work of the group, now known as Arizona Smoke-Free Living (ASFL) accelerated quickly. The additional organizations now actively involved include the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society/Cancer Action Network, the Arizona Public Health Association, Asian Pacific Community in Action, Arizona Department of Health Services, Chicanos Por La Causa/Tiempo Development and Management, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, and Native Health.

The coalition members realized they needed a plan, messaging and communication tools, and collateral material before outreach to managers and owners in MUH could begin. During the first few months of the project, the group agreed on a brand, created a Strategic Plan, developed and launched a website, leveraged additional funding for market research, and much more—essentially creating a strong infrastructure in preparation for outreach and community transformation.

Tipping Point

In the fall of 2012, HUD and the American Lung Association’s National Office announced the launch of the HUD toolkits for multi-unit housing managers and residents in support of those choosing to create smokefree rules. Soon after, the property manager of Broadway Terrace Apartments, a HUD-funded property, was inspired by HUD’s message to create a healthier smokefree environment for their residents. Yudi Cesar, the Broadway Terrace Apartments property manager, contacted the American Lung Association in Arizona to ask for help. The ALAA sprung to action and three ASFL coalition members attended a resident meeting at Broadway Terrace and gave a creative presentation that helped residents understand the many advantages to becoming a smokefree community.

Current and Future Successes

Broadway Terrace Apartments transitioned to a smokefree building in all 100 units on the property as of January 1, 2013. ASFL continues to communicate regularly with Yudi Cesar and is in the process of developing a customized method of resident engagement specifically for those residents who smoke. The object is to provide these individuals with encouragement and resources to help them quit. The ALAA was able to use this success under the CTG program to leverage additional outside funding to offer an on-site Freedom From Smoking® clinic to Broadway Terrace residents at no charge.

St. Mary’s Apartments (40 units) and Aerroterra Senior Village (65 units) have also transitioned to smokefree buildings on their properties. And, in January of 2014, Tanner Terrace will transition to a smokefree property with 155 units.

Broadway Terrace, St. Mary’s Apartments, Aerroterra Senior Village and Tanner Terrace join a handful of other apartment communities in Maricopa County who have made the healthy choice to transition to becoming smokefree. These properties will serve as models—examples of forward thinking that results in healthier and happier residents.