Stoops and Smokes

devin.madden September 7th, 2012

By: Devin Madden, MPH, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in collaboration with Maria Pico, Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership

Summertime in New York meant block parties.  It meant full basketball courts and bustling playgrounds.  It meant shaved ice and fresh mango slices.  Summertime in New York meant stoop sitting.  It meant stoop sitting and open windows.

It also meant secondhand smoke wafting into apartments from the nearby streets and stoops.

Even minimal exposure to secondhand smoke affects our health. Just thirty minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart damage similar to that of an everyday smoker.

And, regardless of what stage of life you are in – secondhand smoke has the chance to bully you.

Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer among older non-smokers, low birth-weight babies, and a host of health problems occurring for children including bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma.  Nearly 1 in 10 kids across the boroughs suffer from this chronic lung disease.

Increased awareness to the hazards of secondhand smoke has led to many environmental changes in New York City starting with the Smoke-Free Air Act that was implemented in 2003.  Most recently, a 2011 bill created smoke-free parks and beaches.  The next step will be more smoke-free apartment complexes throughout the city.  Research has shown it is difficult to keep secondhand smoke restricted to sole apartments, meaning that adopting smoke-free rules for your own home may not be enough to keep your place smoke-free.

Mount Sinai Hospital’s most recent residential unit at 1214 5th Avenue is a champion of smoke-free housing.  The entire building is smoke free, including all apartments, hallways and common areas.  This is not the first housing unit Mount Sinai has made smoke-free.  The housing policies for Mount Sinai School of Medicine students state “maintaining a smoke-free environment at Mount Sinai is imperative to protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and guests.”

In March 2012, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s (MSSM) Department of Health Evidence and Policy was selected to be the borough lead organization for the Partnership for a Healthier New York City.  Working with the Partnership and the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership, we are leading a Manhattan-based initiative that strives to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and tobacco disparities and bring about environmental changes that promote a healthier lifestyle throughout Manhattan.  We will work with organizations across Manhattan to raise awareness about how secondhand smoke in our homes adversely affects the health of New Yorkers.

“The Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership is pleased to be working with the MSSM to address health disparities in our communities” said Maria Pico, Borough Manager.  “For the past ten years, we have worked in Manhattan to bring down the smoking rates in the borough.   With a comprehensive approach including additional resources to cessation, public education, and hard-hitting media, we have achieved moderate success.  We still have much more work to do in our lower socio-economic communities in the borough and are pleased to be working with Mt. Sinai.”

All New Yorkers – seniors, children, teens and adults, regardless of socioeconomic status – should feel safe knowing the air they breathe in their own homes is smoke and toxin-free.

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