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When Massachusetts passed its smoke-free workplace law in 2006, most residents saw their exposure to secondhand smoke all but disappear.  But that’s not true for everyone.

People who live in multi-unit housing, including apartment buildings and elderly housing, still face an elevated risk of exposure.  In fact, non-smokers living in multi-unit housing are twice as likely to report secondhand smoke exposure than non-smokers living in single family homes.

Smoke-free environments reduce the health effects of secondhand smoke.  They also motivate smokers to quit, prevent young people from starting and help ex-smokers stay quit for good.

DPH has found support in an unusual partner: public and private landlords. DPH has been working with landlords from across the state to promote smoke-free policies on a voluntary basis.  DPH provides free technical assistance to landlords, housing authorities, and tenants interested in making housing smoke-free.  These experts also provide consultation to DPH’s community programs that work more closely with housing entities.

DPH’s approach is that the smoke is the issue, not the smoker.  Residents are free to smoke, just not in the building and other parts of the property where smoking is prohibited.  Many smokers actually welcome smoke-free housing policies, saying they are more likely to try to quit if their surroundings are smoke-free.

DPH highly recommends supporting smokers in their attempts to quit smoking as part of any smoke-free housing policy. Smokers should be told about quit-smoking resources available to help them, including the comprehensive smoking cessation benefit available to all MassHealth members.

Most people who live in multi-unit housing want to live in a building with a smoke-free policy.  When surveyed, the overwhelming majority of residents of subsidized housing, both in rural and urban settings, supported smoke-free policies.  In Massachusetts, municipal housing surveys have been conducted in Boston, Springfield, Lee, Lenox, Wayland, Greenfield and Amherst. All of these municipalities are working on or have completed smoke-free policies.

The list of smoke-free housing options is constantly growing.  The Housing Authorities of Barnstable, Boston, Brewster, Chatham, Greenfield, Lee, Leominster, Newton, Northampton, Springfield, Stockbridge, Wayland and Worcester have adopted or are considering smoke-free housing policies.

Smoke-free housing policies are a popular and cost-effective way to ensure a safer, healthier environment for every resident.

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health communication writer and editor

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