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New York City Health Department Launches Smoke-Free Home Campaign

Armen Hareyan's picture

Smoke-Free Home Campaign

New York City Health Department announced the launch of the Harlem Smoke-Free Home campaign to address the issue of secondhand smoke in East and Central Harlem. Children in Harlem are hospitalized for asthma at twice the rate of children citywide. According to a 2005 study, 32% of Central Harlem kids enrolled in a Harlem Children Zone Asthma Initiative program live with a smoker. And though New York City's smoking rate reached a low in 2006, the problem is worse in some parts of Harlem. Last year, the East Harlem rate was nearly twice as high as the citywide rate (31% versus 17.5%).

To counter this trend, the Health Department has launched a new media campaign and teamed up with local organizations to raise awareness about the danger of secondhand smoke. The campaign is also offering additional services - including nicotine patches at local clinics - to help people quit.

"When parents smoke at home, they put their children's health at risk," said Sarah Perl, the Health Department's Assistant Commissioner for Tobacco Control. "Secondhand smoke causes damage to children's developing lungs. Making your home smoke-free home is the best way to protect children from the dangers of secondhand smoke."

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The campaign's display ads started appearing in Harlem subway stations and check-cashing establishments this week and will be up until December 15. The campaign also includes radio promotion and DJ announcements at events throughout Harlem. Produced in English and Spanish, the ads feature African-American and Latino children suffering from secondhand smoke-related illnesses such as asthma, ear infection, allergies and chronic cough. Secondhand smoke can also cause bronchitis and pneumonia in kids, and it increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. In addition, children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to become smokers themselves.

"It is difficult for parents who are addicted to tobacco to take responsibility for their children's chronic asthma," said Fajah Ferrer, Program Manager of Asthma Basics for Children at Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership. "They don't want to harm their children, but many have been unable to stop smoking. Making a home smoke-free is a goal for many parents, but some need extra help to reach it."

Through local home-visiting programs such as the Newborn Home Visiting Program, Health Department staff will distribute smoke-free home kits to families over the next year. Among other items, the kits include an information packet, a pledge calendar and a door sticker that says, "This is a Smoke-Free Home." In addition, the Health Department is working with community groups to organize workshops on smoke-free homes, while promoting the message at community events.

The New York City Housing Authority has also joined the effort by displaying smoke-free home posters in English and Spanish in some Manhattan developments.

Other community partners include: