Community Conversations on Smoke-Free NYCHA
By Marvin Jean-Jacques, Program Manager, NYCHA Health Initiatives

Marvin Jean-Jacques
NYCHA Program Manager Marvin Jean-Jacques (left).

If you haven’t already heard, all public housing across the country—including NYCHA homes—will go smoke-free as of July 30, 2018, following a requirement from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

Smoke-Free NYCHA is designed to create healthier homes for residents and healthier working environments for employees by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. The program also provides support to residents and employees who want to quit smoking. We’ve spent the past 18 months reaching out to thousands of residents across the city about Smoke-Free NYCHA through borough-wide meetings and activities at Family Days, and we created a Smoking and Health Advisory Group of residents and partners who helped guide solutions to addressing secondhand smoke exposure.

In recent months, NYCHA’s Health Initiatives team has hosted various Community Conversations. At these events, we present information about Smoke-Free NYCHA and talk with residents about sharing the air, how to make our communities healthier, and how to protect senior citizens and children in the developments. We always end these conversations with an exercise that empowers everyone to talk about their personal experiences dealing with secondhand smoke. With the help of the Resident Engagement Department, we’ve facilitated more than 50 Community Conversations over the past six months.

“As a former smoker, I think it is important that people take more consideration as far as their health is concerned,” said Willie Mae Lewis, a NYCHA resident and participant in the Upper Manhattan Community Conversation. “Smoking is an addiction, and there are a lot of good points about the Smoke-Free policy that address our health.”

To spread the word about our Community Conversations, we partnered with Green City Force (GCF) to create an apprenticeship program, and two GCF graduates visited with NYCHA residents to promote the conversations. Asha Dykes and Porch’e Brown are both NYCHA residents who offered invaluable perspectives and helped inform over 5,000 residents about Smoke-Free NYCHA face to face.

The Smoke-Free housing policy is fundamentally about promoting healthy living and working environments for all our community members. NYCHA will continue to work with partners and residents to create strategies and resources, educate about the health risks of secondhand smoke exposure, and connect residents to smoking cessation services for those who want to quit. The Authority also looks forward to supporting all residents who have expressed an interest in participating more in Smoke-Free NYCHA events following the July 30 implementation date.

Watch a short film about NYCHA going Smoke-Free here.

If you have ideas or would like to work on Smoke-Free NYCHA, please contact NYCHA Health Initiatives at or 212-306-8282.

Smoke-Free Community Conversation
A Community Conversation on Smoke-Free NYCHA at the Pelham Parkway Houses’ community center in the Bronx.
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