Margaret Reid

Boston, MA Tenants Partner with Landlords to Breathe Easier in Smoke-Free Homes

At A Glance

As of May 2016, nearly 2,000 low-income residents in Boston, MA, have greater access to the health and safety benefits of smoke-free housing. A total of 765 Section 8 (Housing Choice) and rental-assisted housing units of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) became smoke-free as a result of technical assistance provided by the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). The project – funded, in part, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – assists landlords, managers, and tenants of subsidized housing in creating healthier home environments.

Public Health Challenge

Where people live can affect their health, and low-income tenants of subsidized housing often suffer from poor health conditions. According to the 2013 Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 27% of Boston residents who live in subsidized housing are smokers compared to 16% of residents in market rate housing. These residents have an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer. Secondhand smoke (SHS) also presents a serious challenge for non-smokers, including children and seniors with asthma, who can be exposed to smoke from neighboring units and common areas in their building. The Surgeon General concludes that the only way to fully protect non-smokers from SHS is to prohibit smoking in all indoor areas. However, landlords and tenants who may want to create healthier home environments often lack the knowledge and resources to implement smoke-free protections.

My building was already voluntarily smoke-free, but with new tenants moving in, we wanted to keep it that way to ensure that my neighbors and I, who are mostly elderly, could continue to live in a healthy environment.
- Edna Willrich, BHA tenant