In July 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development passed a rule requiring public housing authorities to implement smoke-free housing (SFH) policies. We measured secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure immediately before, and repeatedly up to 36 months post-SFH policy implementation in a purposeful sample of 21 New York City (NYC) high-rise buildings (>15 floors): 10 NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings subject to the policy and 11 privately managed buildings in which most residents received housing vouchers (herein ‘Section 8’).
We invited participants from non-smoking households (NYCHA n=157, Section 8 n=118) to enroll into a longitudinal air monitoring study, measuring (1) nicotine concentration with passive, bi-sulfate-coated filters, and (2) particulate matter (PM2.5) with low-cost particle sensors. We also measured nicotine concentrations and counted cigarette butts in common areas (n=91 stairwells and hallways). We repeated air monitoring sessions in households and common areas every 6 months, totaling six post-policy sessions.
After three years, we observed larger declines in nicotine concentration in NYCHA hallways than in Section 8, [difference-in-difference (DID) = -1.92 µg/m 3 (95% CI –2.98, -0.87), p=0.001]. In stairwells, nicotine concentration declines were larger in NYCHA buildings, but the differences were not statistically significant [DID= -1.10 µg/m 3 (95% CI -2.40, 0.18), p=0.089]. In households, there was no differential change in nicotine concentration (p=0.093) or in PM2.5 levels (p=0.385).
Nicotine concentration reductions in NYCHA common areas over three years may be attributable to the SFH policy, reflecting its gradual implementation over this time.
Continued air monitoring over multiple years has demonstrated that SHS exposure may be declining more rapidly in NYCHA common areas as a result of SFH policy adherence. This may have positive implications for improved health outcomes among those living in public housing, but additional tracking of air quality and studies of health outcomes are needed. Ongoing efforts by NYCHA to integrate the SFH policy into wider healthier-homes initiatives may increase policy compliance.