New Study Finds Overwhelming Support for Smokefree Public Housing

The American Lung Association is helping public housing authorities and residents transition to smokefree housing, protect 2 million residents from secondhand smoke and help smokers quit

Three in four adults support the policy that will make all public housing smokefree, according to a new study published November 16 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study, "Attitudes Toward Smoke-Free Public Housing Among U.S. Adults, 2016" found 74 percent of adults support this new rule, including more than two in five smokers.

Smokefree housing protects the lung health of residents, as secondhand smoke travels between units. This new study finding public support of smokefree housing comes at an important time, following the November 30, 2016, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announcement that all public housing agencies must implement smokefree policies throughout all residential units and common areas by July 31, 2018. As a result, two million public housing residents – including 760,000 children – will be protected from secondhand smoke in their homes. The American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics led the years-long effort of dozens of public health and medical organizations urging HUD to make public housing smokefree.

"Secondhand smoke exposure in public housing threatens the health of millions of Americans," said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "Everyone – especially our nation's most vulnerable citizens—children, the elderly and low-income Americans—deserve protection from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke at home and where they live, work and play."

February 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that two in five children living in federally subsidized housing overall are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even more troubling was the finding that seven in ten African-American children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Children who breathe secondhand smoke can have more ear infections, coughs and colds, tooth decay, headaches, sore throat, eye irritation, hoarseness and respiratory problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia. A study of smokefree public housing in Colorado published in Preventing Chronic Disease in 2016 found smokefree housing policies were associated with lung health benefits, including a significant reduction in breathing problems such as asthma attacks.

The U.S. Surgeon General has stated there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. More than 41,000 deaths per year are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can cause or make worse a wide range of damaging health effects in children and adults, including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma. Asthma disproportionately impacts low-income residents living in federally subsidized housing and exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger asthma exacerbations. Children living with asthma are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke, and may suffer from more asthma attacks and more and longer hospitalizations as a result.

In 2012, the American Lung Association launched the Smokefree Housing Initiative, making free resources – including educational videos, an online course and template materials – available for residents and property managers to assist with their efforts to make multi-unit housing smokefree. The Lung Association has already helped a number of public housing agencies make this transition.

Strong Support for Helping PHAs Go Smokefree and Helping Smokers Quit

In response to the opportunity to help some of the most vulnerable members of our society, a number of philanthropic foundations and other organizations are investing in the effort to end secondhand smoke exposure for the two million public housing residents, as well as ensure the 300,000 current smokers have help to quit if they are ready to do so.

"The American public's strong support for smokefree public housing is reflected in the generous support for initiatives to help public housing residents and authorities make this transition to smokefree," said Wimmer. "We are grateful for the strong investments and excited that communities and partners are coming together to improve the health of all communities."   

  • The Lung Association and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announced a joint effort to improve tobacco cessation treatment for Medicaid enrollees in October 2016. The partnership is aimed at increasing coverage and access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments for Medicaid enrollees in seven states.
  • In September, the Lung Association announced a new collaboration with the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc., to offer quit-smoking support to residents of public housing in advance of the implementation of HUD smokefree housing rule.
  • In January 2018, the American Lung Association begins a new broad collaboration with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to offer implementation assistance to PHAs in addition to cessation assistance to residents in 10 states.

The American Lung Association offers support for lung disease patients, their loved ones and caregivers, as well as the general public with lung health questions through, Better Breathers Clubs and the toll-free Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNGUSA), which is staffed by respiratory therapists, certified tobacco cessation counselors, registered nurses and other health professionals.

For media interested in speaking with an expert on smokefree housing or quitting smoking, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected].

For more information, contact:

Gregg Tubbs
(202) 715-3469
[email protected]

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