Study Finds PHA’s Smoke Free Policy Leads to Healthier Homes

(Philadelphia, PA - February 02, 2017) - A recently completed scientific study found that the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) smoke-free policy improves air quality at public housing developments.  The study conducted by scientists from Drexel and Johns Hopkins Universities showed that the average amount of detectable levels of nicotine in the air at four test sites was reduced almost in half.  Inside non-smoking residents' homes, trends toward reduced nicotine exposures were also seen.  The study confirms that smoke-free policies are more effective in reducing secondhand smoke exposures for both smoking and non-smoking residents.  The data generated by the study makes PHA the only housing authority in the nation with objective evidence showing the effectiveness of smoke-free policy. The locations for the study were chosen based on survey data and the concentrations of vulnerable populations of children and seniors. Passive air monitors measured nicotine levels for 7 to 14 days at Wilson Park, Fairhill Apartments, Bentley Hall, and West Park Apartments. A team from Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health conducted three waves of data collection: summer/fall 2013, late spring 2014, and early spring 2016.

Nicotine levels were measured inside the homes of residents who do not allow smoking in their residence and in common areas, such as entrances, stairwells, elevators, laundry rooms, and hallways. This technique allowed for the comparison of second-hand smoke levels before and after the smoke-free policy became effective on August 5, 2015. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore analyzed the samples collected by the Drexel team.

 "Based on these initial results, we are very happy that the smoke-free policy is reducing secondhand smoke levels at each of these locations," said PHA's President and CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah. "Most of us are aware of the harmful effects secondhand smoke can cause or worsen, like asthma, emphysema, heart disease, and cancer. That's why PHA is committed to working collaboratively with our residents to ensure healthy smoke-free homes. "

Secondhand smoke seeps and drifts from a smoker's residence to other units and common areas. Up to 60% of the air in multifamily homes can come from other units. The results suggest that the new policy has not eliminated secondhand smoke in homes or public areas, but that the amount of airborne nicotine, on average, is significantly less than the amount detected before the policy took effect. The smoke-free policy adopted by the PHA Board has a unique two-pronged approach to enforcement for new and existing homes. One section of the policy applies to residents with leases at existing units before the policy took effect on August 5, 2015. The other applies only to homes that are new construction or substantially rehabilitated, for residents entering into leases on or after the start date of the policy.

At existing units, Notices of Violation can be issued, with emphasis on the availability of smoking cessation programs. Eviction will never be a consequence under this part of the policy. Residents who entered into leases on or after August 5, 2015 at new units or substantially rehabilitated units (where PHA has made a major financial investment) may face possible lease termination after the fourth violation of the smoking policy. The policy also allows for one violation to be erased. In each instance, violators will receive informational materials and support top help the try to kick the smoking habit. So far, no Notices of Violation have been issued.
The full study, "SHS Exposure and Smoke-Free Policy in Philadelphia Public Housing," will be published in Tobacco Regulatory Science's April issue.