American Lung Association and Mental Health America Partner to Support Residents in Smokefree Public Housing Transition

The groups will provide assistance to the behavioral health community during the smokefree public housing rule implementation

Today the American Lung Association and Mental Health America (MHA) announced the Smokefree at Home: Implementing Smokefree Policies at HUD Properties project. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the project will support public housing residents who are living with behavioral health issues, such as mental illness and substance use disorders, as all federally-owned public housing transitions to smokefree environments.

This project is in support of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) rule requiring all public housing agencies (PHAs) to implement a smokefree policy by July 31, 2018. The new smokefree rule will protect close to two million residents living in public housing from exposure to secondhand smoke. This population includes many of those most vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke, including close to 700,000 children and more than 300,000 adults over the age of 62.

"The transition to smokefree air at home will improve the health of millions of Americans," said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer. "Smoking is a serious addiction, and the American Lung Association and MHA are here to support communities who have historically not benefitted equally from tobacco control efforts, including the behavioral health community, and as a result use tobacco at a higher rate."

The recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, "Tobacco Cessation Interventions and Smoke-Free Policies in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities – United States 2016," reveals that persons with mental illness and/or substance use disorders are more than twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as persons without such disorders and are more likely to die from smoking-related illness than from their behavioral health conditions.

The project's goal is to ensure that members of the behavioral health community are supported in their adjustment to the new smokefree policy, remain in their homes and, for those interested in quitting smoking, have access to cessation programs and services.

"Within our efforts in support of the smokefree policy housing ruling, it's important to offer extra support to communities with higher rates of tobacco use, so that everyone has a chance to live a healthy life," Wimmer said. "We're excited to work with MHA, an organization with a great record of addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, on this project to support public housing residents through this transition. The American Lung Association will continue to work tirelessly to move smokefree living forward."

According to Wimmer, research shows that although people with behavioral health conditions may require more intensive treatment, they want to and are able to quit smoking.

"In order to support those living with mental illness or substance use disorders we want to ensure public housing authorities address concerns of this population as they create and implement smokefree policies," said President and CEO of MHA, Paul Gionfriddo. "There are tremendous health benefits associated with smokefree living spaces, and we’re proud to work with the Lung Association and other key stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to healthier communities."

For media interested in speaking with an expert on quit smoking resources and tobacco-related health disparities, contact Allison MacMunn at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628 or Erin Wallace at Mental Health America at [email protected] or 571-319-9594.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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