The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires all public housing authorities (PHA) to go smoke-free by July 30, 2018.
Here’s what you need to know.
What does HUD require?
HUD wants every PHA to prohibit the use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookah pipes inside apartments, in indoor common areas, and within 25 feet of buildings. NYCHA is required to update every tenant’s lease to state that smoking by household members and their guests is a violation of the lease. NYCHA residents will receive revised leases to sign in 2018. Smoking is already prohibited in management offices, lobbies, hallways, stairwells, and elevators.
Why go smoke-free?
It’s about your health! NYCHA residents deserve safe, clean, and healthy homes and communities. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the USA. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and it can lead to stroke, heart disease, cancer, and asthma. Children and seniors are most at risk, but everyone is affected. Plus NYCHA residents have higher levels of chronic diseases made worse by smoking and secondhand smoke.
“Many times in my house you would think that I was the one smoking but it’s coming from outside my apartment,” says Castle Hill Houses resident Carrie Sealy, member of NYCHA’s Advisory Group on Smoking and Health. “It’ll be interesting to see the number of asthma episodes that will go down because children are not being exposed to second hand smoke. School attendance may increase; overall quality of life and quality of health will get better. A lot of people want to stop smoking and this could help them do it, as long as there’s support.”
A 2012 citywide survey found that most NYCHA residents say smoke enters their apartment on a regular basis; and 70 percent would prefer to live in a smoke-free building.
How is NYCHA developing its smoke-free policy?
Going smoke free at the largest PHA in the country won’t happen overnight. NYCHA has worked for more than a year to create its policy, Smoke-Free NYCHA, gathering input from residents, employees, and partner organizations, including the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). NYCHA’s Advisory Group on Smoking and Health includes residents and partners who work in the developments to spread the word on the new policy. Carrie Sealy, member of the Advisory Group, says having residents on an advisory group is important because “you’re hearing the voice of the people the policy is actually going to affect, people who are non-smokers and people who are smokers. One woman is still a smoker and I like that her voice was heard and then there are people like myself who’ve never smoked, my voice was heard as well.”
In addition, in March and April of last year, community meetings were held in all five boroughs with DOHMH representatives, and the Authority is currently meeting with Resident Associations to provide an update on the policy. NYCHA and DOHMH staff talked to over 1,500 residents at Family Days about going smoke free.
How will NYCHA enforce the smoke-free policy?
Though the policy is still being developed, NYCHA will use graduated enforcement, addressing violations with a series of warnings and specific, progressive enforcement actions, while also educating residents and providing resources or referrals to residents who want to quit smoking.
“Smoke-Free NYCHA is one of many NextGeneration NYCHA initiatives underway to create healthier and more comfortable homes,” said Andrea Mata, NYCHA’s Director of Health Initiatives. “Change will be gradual but we’re excited to help reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and connect residents who smoke and want to quit to resources that support their efforts.”