Clean Air Council

Tobacco

Clean Air Council has long been a leader in educating the public about and advocating for smoke-free initiatives in Pennsylvania. For over 14 years the Council has served as a provider of numerous innovative tobacco control services for the Pennsylvania Department of Health in Pennsylvania.

Our current campaigns focus on reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke comes from smoke breathed out by the person who smokes, and smoke from the end of a burning cigarette. It contains over 4000 chemicals causing diseases like asthma and respiratory infections, 200 of which are poisons and at least 69 cause cancer. The EPA estimates that secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 37,000 heart disease deaths in nonsmokers each year.

One of the most frequent air quality problems the Council’s indoor air pollution experts hear about is smoking in living and working spaces. To address this concern, the Council has educated businesses and the public for years about the health dangers of tobacco smoke.  Although great strides have been made on the issue, more is being done through a number of programs like tobacco-free multi-unit housing and Young Lungs at Play.

Multi-Unit Housing

Smoke from one individual smoking in their apartment can travel to other non-smokers’ rooms in apartment buildings. It can permeate through ventilation systems, electrical fixtures and even cracks in walls. Unless the building owner has a smoke-free clause in the lease there is not much that a non-smoker can do if their apartment is invaded by smoke. Clean Air Council developed an initiative to assist owners of multi-unit housing to establish these smoke-free policies. The program helps owners of both private and public housing understand the health and financial benefits of going smoke-free.

As a pioneer in Pennsylvania for championing smoke-free policy in multi-unit housing, the Council meets with residential home owners associations and public housing authorities throughout Pennsylvania to help implement smoke-free policy to protect non-smokers, especially vulnerable populations like children and the elderly, from secondhand smoke.

The Council has made some significant contributions to smoke-free housing in the past few years. In 2013, the Council worked with the Chester County Housing Authority to introduce Pennsylvania’s first tobacco-free policy on all its property. The next year, the Council helped the Housing Development Corporation Mid Atlantic implement a similar smoke-free policy in over 3,300 of its units. We took the lessons we learned from this of process and presented them at the Society for Public Health Education’s 65th Annual Meeting to help others develop an integrated approach to tobacco/smoke-free housing. And in 2015, the Lycoming Housing Authority and Philadelphia Housing Authority both announced the adoption of smoke-free housing policies, assisted by the Clean Air Council.

Young Lungs at Play

Tobacco smoke pollution is especially harmful to young children. The EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections each year in infants and children less than 18 months old, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year. Tobacco smoke is also harmful to children with asthma. The EPA estimates that for between 200,000 and 1,000,000 asthmatic children, exposure to secondhand smoke worsens their condition.

Clean Air Council again pioneered an initiative that encouraged municipalities in Pennsylvania to examine policy options for their facilities to protect their communities from the dangers of secondhand smoke. That program later transformed into a Pennsylvania Department of Health initiative called “Young Lungs at Play”. Now all over Pennsylvania, communities have instituted outdoor tobacco-free ordinances at parks, zoos, athletic fields, playgrounds, trails, beaches and even city sidewalks and streets as a way to protect both children and the environment.

For more information about these tobacco-free initiatives contact Thurman Brendlinger at brendlinger@cleanair.org or 215-567-4004 ext. 104.

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