Staten Island is New York City’s third largest (by land area) borough and yet has the smallest population – about 476,000 residents. Given the borough’s small population it is astounding that Staten Island leads the pack with a smoking rate of 22 percent compared to New York City’s overall smoking rate of 14 percent. What can each community in Staten Island do to protect children, adults, pets, and our environment from the harmful toxins in commercial tobacco products? The answer is simple, embrace tobacco-free norms to smoke-free protections in areas where residents live work and play. NYC Smoke-Free is proud to join the many partners on Staten Island that help to make tobacco-free norms a reality.
NYC Smoke-Free of Public Health Solutions works across all 5 boroughs to bring the smoking rates down overall, but especially among the populations that experience the highest tobacco disparities. Increasing smoke-free protections through Smoke-Free Housing (where residents live) and Tobacco-Free Outdoor Air (where residents work and play) has been a major goal for NYC Smoke-Free. . Currently smoking is prohibited in public housing, all schools, childcare establishments, stores, restaurants, bars, and government facilities. While this is a start, there is much more work to be done on Staten Island where smoking rates are the highest Since the onset of COVID-19, and more people staying at home to do their part in social distancing, there has been more attention to the air quality where they live. Residents that live in multi-unit housing, particularly on the North Shore, sheltering in place highlights just how much shared air affects us in our homes. Since there is no way contain secondhand smoke, and establishing smoke-free policies is the only true way to eliminate exposure which compromises the health of infants and children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses like asthma. In any given building, there are several households that suffer from secondhand smoke exposure everyday while in their own homes.
After 10 years of working on increasing smoke-free housing across NYC, we now know that these protections are desired by many New Yorkers. According to survey data from the NYC Dept. of Mental Health and Hygiene over half (53%) of all smokers have smoke-free policies for their homes. In order to increase tobacco-free norms like smoke-free housing, property managers, landlords, board members, tenants, and community members must take an active role to protect people from the harmful toxins in commercial tobacco by working with NYC Smoke-Free to adopt Smoke-Free Housing policies.
Our efforts to increase smoke-free housing has positively effected over 50,000 NYC residents, while we have garnered over 70 tobacco-free outdoor air policies with community based organizations and businesses. As the world (including New York City) slowly reopens being able to live, work and play in smoke-free environments will become ever more important as we strive to keep our lung function intact and lead healthier lifestyles. A smoke-free home and workplace is a healthy environment that every New Yorker deserves.
Exposure to secondhand smoke at any level is unsafe and uncontrollable. How can we protect ourselves, our families, and our pets? By adopting smoke-free policies for your home and workplace that help Staten Islanders living in multi-unit buildings to have access to cleaner and healthier air.