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Study: Housing Authority Smoking Ban Didn’t Lower Secondhand Smoke

By LIDA TUNESI

A new study has found that the smoking ban in New York City public housing did not lower exposure to secondhand smoke in the first year since its implementation.

Professor Katarzyna Wyka of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy was an author on the study, which was a collaboration with researchers from New York University and Johns Hopkins. The article appears in the journal JAMA Network Open.

In 2018, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)—the largest housing authority in the country—banned smoking inside public housing buildings. While research has shown that laws against smoking in places like bars and restaurants have successfully decreased secondhand smoke exposure, similar policies don’t seem to be as effective in residences.

The researchers monitored levels of airborne nicotine and small particulate matter in stairwells, hallways, and nonsmoking apartments before the ban took effect, and for one year after. The results didn’t show any significant changes.

Similar studies on public housing smoking bans in Philadelphia, Boston, and Norfolk have shown slightly varied effects, the authors said. But none of them have shown that secondhand smoke exposure decreased significantly or stayed that way over long periods of time.

The authors cited other studies that have asked why these policies aren’t making a difference. Residents might not have adequate support for quitting smoking, or they might feel they have the right to do as they please in their apartments. Alternatively, the new rules might not have been well-advertised, or residents don’t feel the need to comply until building management takes care of other issues first.

NYCHA is already taking steps to fix some of these issues, an article by NYU Langone Health explains, such as a smoking cessation support program, a new system to track reports of smoking, and increased signage about the rules. Giving residents spaces where they are allowed to smoke could also help the problem, one of the authors says.