New policy protects over 1,000 elderly and disabled residents and ensures access to clean, smoke-free air.
The Providence Housing Authority (PHA), joined by city officials, PHA residents and Tobacco-Free Providence members, today announced a new smoke-free policy for five elderly and disabled high-rise buildings throughout the city: Carroll Tower, Dexter Manor, Dominica Manor, Kilmartin Plaza and Parenti Villa. The new policy, which went into effect earlier this year, states that residents can no longer smoke inside their homes, but instead in designated outdoor smoking areas created by the PHA.
"There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and no one should have to choose between their health and where they are going to live," said Stephen O'Rourke, executive director of the PHA. "Smoke-free policies reduce this serious public health risk and allow all residents to breathe safe air."
Across the country, 243 public housing authorities have implemented smoke-free policies, including four others in Rhode Island - Pawtucket, Lincoln, Newport and Warwick. Research shows that eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can travel through doorways, wall joints, plumbing spaces, light fixtures and between housing units. Secondhand smoke is more deadly than vehicle exhaust, arsenic, asbestos and lead, and is a Class A carcinogen, meaning it is a cancer-causing agent.
"We must work to keep all Providence residents, including our elderly and disabled, as safe and healthy as possible," said Mayor Angel Taveras. "I am pleased to see the Providence Housing Authority take steps to protect over 1,000 city residents from exposure to secondhand smoke."
The smoke-free policy will promote a healthy living environment and reduce the risk of fires and preserve property values, saving money on cleaning and repair costs.
"Healthy residents are the foundation of healthy cities, and all Providence residents have the right to live in a safe, smoke-free home," said City Council President Michael Solomon (Ward 5). "This new smoke-free policy will increase the quality of life for residents and help to solidify the fact that Providence is a great city to live, work and raise a family."
Prior to enacting the policy, the PHA conducted extensive resident surveys in all 5 high-rise buildings. The surveys showed that 83 percent of PHA residents support the new smoke-free policy. In addition, the surveys found that nearly one-third of respondents smoke regularly, and of those, 62 percent would like to quit.
The PHA offers free smoking cessation services to uninsured and underinsured residents who want to quit. The program includes one-on-one counseling with nicotine specialists from the Providence Community Health Center (PCHC) and free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as nicotine patches, gum and lozenges. To date, 43 PHA high-rise residents have sought smoking cessation assistance from PCHC.
"Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect non-smokers from exposure to secondhand smoke," said Dr. Michael Fine, Director of the R.I. Department of Health. "I commend the Providence Housing Authority for taking decisive action in protecting its elderly and disabled residents, many of whom suffer from chronic medical problems, which are exacerbated by the presence of secondhand smoke."
Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. Each year, more Americans die from smoking-related illnesses than from AIDS, drug abuse, car accidents, murders and suicides combined. In Providence, low-income individuals are disproportionately affected by asthma, exposure to secondhand smoke and chronic disease risk factors than higher income individuals. In addition, smoking is the leading cause of residential fires and the number one cause of fire deaths in the United States.
Providence Housing Authority - Established in 1939, the Providence Housing Authority (PHA) owns and manages 2,606 units of public housing and is contract administrator for approximately 2,500 units of Section 8 housing. Approximately 58 percent of its housing stock is designated for families with the remainder reserved for elderly and/or disabled individuals or families. To learn more about PHA and its programs, go to www.pha-providence.com
Tobacco-Free Providence campaign - The Tobacco-Free Providence campaign is working to build a healthier, safer and stronger community that is free from the harmful effects of tobacco. The campaign is bringing community members together to make it harder for underage kids to buy tobacco; prevent kids from buying single cigarettes, or loosies; limit kids' exposure to tobacco marketing in stores; limit sales practices that make it easier and cheaper to buy tobacco; create tobacco-free schools and public housing; and provide free nicotine replacement and classes for adults that want to quit tobacco. Tobacco-Free Providence is supported by the Providence Mayor's Substance Abuse Prevention Council in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health, and funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, visit www.tobaccofreeprovidence.org.
Mayor's Substance Abuse Prevention Council - The Mayor's Substance Abuse Prevention Council (MSAPC) aims to protect youth and prevent harmful alcohol and drug use by implementing evidence-based programs, building awareness, providing effective education, supporting comprehensive environmental strategies and promoting the health and wellness of communities. For more information, visit www.msapc.org.
Rhode Island Department of Health - The Department of Health (HEALTH) strives to prevent disease and to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of Rhode Island. It is a diverse and interactive state agency with broad-ranging public health responsibilities that are aimed at ensuring all Rhode Islanders receive quality health care and live in a safe and healthy environment. As the state's sole health department, HEALTH relies on its partnership with community and professional groups throughout the state to achieve its vision and bring critical public health programming into Rhode Island neighborhoods. For more information, visit www.health.ri.gov.