Smoke-Free Housing Summit: Keeping the Momentum

building-a-new-normal-coverChanging social norms takes time.

Just fifteen years ago, passengers on international flights could smoke, restaurants and bars were filled with smoke, office workers smoked at their desks, and our parks and beaches were littered with cigarette butts.

Now we can breath clean smoke-free air where we work and socialize–but necessarily where we live. If you live in a multi-unit/family building, near a smoker, you can be exposed to secondhand smoke.

New Yorkers are increasingly embracing smoke-free housing because all too often, when one person smokes, the whole building smokes.

748In response to the growing demand for smoke-free housing, the Coalition joined the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), housing organizations, representatives from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), health advocates and our community partners for a Smoke-Free Housing Summit, entitled, “Keeping the Momentum”.

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Milano Harden of The Genius Group

Milano Harden of The Genius Group facilitated the Summit, which clarified the strategies of our three focus areas: Smoke-Free from the Start (new construction); Healthy Living, Healthy Housing (partnering with health with health initiatives); and Tenant/Resident Engagement.

Partnerships, promotion and policies are essential to our success. Partnering with community/housing organizations, health advocates, real estate developers and key elected officials will help us gain support and expand our educational efforts. Promoting our successes and best practices will position smoke-free housing as part of health and green construction initiatives. Finally, bold and innovative housing policies and community board resolutions that protect New Yorkers from secondhand smoke exposure in their homes are crucial.

Walls-Don-t-Protect-1At one point in the Summit, Americo Santiago, a Resident Liaison at NYCHA, asked poignantly, “Why is it that we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure our children can breathe clean, smoke-free air in restaurants, parks, public places and even at the beach, but if they live in the same building with a smoker, they are not protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke?”

One day, we will look back and say, “Can you imagine that people used to smoke in their apartments?” But until then, we will continue to raise awareness of the negative health effects of secondhand smoke exposure, the benefits of smoke-free housing, and the various smoke-free housing policies buildings can adopt.

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