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Maryland Families Living in Public Housing Now Protected from Secondhand Smoke Exposure

American Lung Association to support public housing authorities, public housing residents by sharing expertise, resources and providing quit smoking services

(July 30, 2018) - BALTIMORE, Md.

Secondhand smoke is a serious health threat, and can linger in rooms and even travel between homes in multi-unit housing. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.  Maryland residents in public housing will now be protected by a new smokefree housing rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that goes into effect today.

“Everyone’s home should be a safe and healthy environment, free from the many health dangers of secondhand smoke exposure. This is especially true for children and those who are more vulnerable to the impact of second smoke, such as those living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said American Lung Association Chief Mission Officer Deborah P. Brown. “According to the Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Today we’re making a healthier future for Maryland and our nation by ensuring homes are free from the risks of secondhand smoke and helping smokers quit.”

In November 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a rule requiring all federally-owned public housing to become smokefree by July 30, 2018. This rule will protect close to two million Americans nationwide from being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, including 690,000 children.

The American Lung Association celebrates this long-awaited health protection, following more than a decade of advocacy for the passage of the rule as well as support for the implementation of smokefree housing policies in local public housing authorities. In Maryland, it means protections for more than 25,000 residents in local public housing agencies.

In Maryland, the Lung Association has worked to increase awareness and provide education about the smoke free housing policy through media outreach, providing information to local coalitions and health partners and working directly with property managers to help them prepare for the transition. We will also use funding from the Anthem Foundation to help provide our Freedom From Smoking® (FFS) cessation program to public housing residents free of charge.

“An important contribution the Lung Association has made to the successful transition is the ‘on the ground’ work by many of our volunteers and staff, to help housing authorities and residents prepare to go smokefree,” said Brown. “For example, we’ve worked with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), which serves over 45,000 individuals through public housing and housing subsidies. We provided them with materials proven to help smokers quit, including FFS elf-help guides and participant kits, and free membership for our Freedom From Smoking Plus program, through our grant from the Anthem Foundation.”

As the Anthem Foundation grant period continues, the Lung Association in Maryland plans to grow its number of trained FFS facilitators and increase the distribution of FFS Plus and FFS Self-Help Guides for low-income properties. There will be an emphasis on learning more about how the HUD ruling is being implemented in local counties and cities so that the American Lung Association can offer smoking cessation services to individuals and providing ongoing technical support and assistance for property managers as they work through the process of making their housing smokefree.

“Today we celebrate this crucial step to protect health of residents in Maryland. We’re proud to assist in the implementation of smokefree policies and help smokers quit, when they’re ready, and we know we’ll see the health benefits for years to come,” said Brown.

Secondhand smoke exposure poses serious health threats to both children and adults. Damaging health effects in children and adults include lung cancer, respiratory infections, worsened asthma symptoms, heart attacks and stroke. For residents of multi-unit housing (e.g., apartment buildings and condominiums), secondhand smoke can be a major concern even if people don’t smoke in your unit, as smoke can migrate from other units and common areas and travel through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation systems.

American Lung Association materials and success stories on smokefree housing can be found at Lung.org/smokefreehousing.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about local public housing authorities transition to smokefree, secondhand smoke or lung health, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 717-971-1123, 717-503-3903 (cell).

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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