Renton Housing Authority takes on secondhand smoke

CTGlogo2In the United States, it’s estimated that secondhand smoke takes the lives of 49,400 non-smoking adults each year. Secondhand smoke can also have lasting health effects on children, including longer and worse asthma attacks, ear and respiratory infections, trouble breathing, and sore throats. While bans on smoking in public are in place across the country, including here in King County, secondhand smoke can be a daily reality for people who live in multi-family complexes, even if family members don’t smoke. While individual apartments may feel insulated, smoke can move through windows, doors, and vents into neighboring units.

Kaelene_Signs3 copy
Executive Associate Kaelene Nobis shows off smoke-free signs used on RHA properties.

To address this issue here in King County, the Renton Housing Authority (RHA), an agency that provides affordable, quality housing to people with low incomes, adopted smoke-free policies in all of its 869 units. In a survey of 195 residents RHA found:

  • 81% of residents already did not allow smoking their homes
  • 64% wanted to live in a 100% smoke-free building.

With these statistics in mind, RHA created a policy that asks smokers to maintain a distance of 25 feet from the building when smoking and to not smoke indoors or on their patios.

Popular with residents

“Overall, it’s going to be very effective for me to quit. I know I’m going to feel a lot better. And I’m going to be grateful for that,” said one resident about the policy.

Others were happy that smoke would no longer seep into their apartments. A letter to the Renton Housing Authority from some residents explained that before the policy was in place, they couldn’t open their doors due to the tobacco smoke, but now things have changed, “We thank you very much! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Letter to Renton Housing Authority from residents.
Letter to Renton Housing Authority from residents.

The proof of the policy’s popularity is also clear in the most recent survey of residents–over 80% reported they were “pleased” that their building was now smoke free and feedback from residents was overwhelmingly positive.

Over the last several years, CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) and, most recently, the Community Transformation Grant (CTG) have worked toward smoke-free public housing. Now, all public housing in King County is smoke free–ensuring clean, safe, breathable air for all residents.

This blog post is part of a series highlighting successful initiatives as part of the Community Transformation Grant (CTG). In September 2012, partners Seattle Children’s Hospital, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and the Healthy King County Coalition (HKCC) received a grant to work with local governments, schools, hospitals, low-income housing groups, and community organizations to improve the health of communities in South Seattle and South King County. Find out more here: www.kingcounty.gov/health/ctg.