Nebraska in Action

Many Public Housing Authorities Use Nebraska Health Department Expertise To Implement Federal Smoke-Free Housing Policy
Rafting in Nebraska

Like the rich plains and prairies throughout the state, many good things come from the hard work of the Tobacco Free Nebraska team from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health. The state prohibited smoking in indoor workplaces and public places in 2009, yet 2,500 Nebraskan adults still die from smoking-related illnesses each year.1 Troubled by this and the knowledge that nearly 18,000 Nebraskan children are exposed to secondhand smoke at home,2 the Tobacco Free Nebraska team thought of ways to protect more people from secondhand smoke.

Making It Easier for Housing Managers to Provide Smoke-Free Homes

People living in multiunit housing, such as apartments, are particularly susceptible to unwanted secondhand smoke exposure in the home. Secondhand smoke can travel between units in apartment buildings through doorways and in other ways, such as through electrical lines, ventilation systems, and plumbing. Secondhand smoke is not safe at any level.3

Many residents in public housing are children, older adults, and people with disabilities.4 Nebraska’s Public Housing Authorities, which provide government-subsidized housing, were early leaders in the United States for adopting smoke-free housing policies. However, the pace of adopting new smoke-free housing policies in Nebraska’s Public Housing Authorities had slowed. In response, Tobacco Free Nebraska created a program to make implementation easier for the housing authorities. The team also developed a toolkit that included:

  • A guide explaining how to adopt smoke-free public housing policies.
  • Tips for how to implement a smoke-free housing policy.
  • Smoke-free signs, stickers, and window clings for apartment buildings.
  • Fact sheets for residents, including information about services to help residents quit smoking.

Tobacco Free Nebraska gave these toolkits to any housing manager that filled out a needs assessment in September 2016. The needs assessments helped Tobacco Free Nebraska identify what other help housing managers need.

Updating Resources to Reflect Changing Conditions and to Achieve a Broader Reach

In December 2016, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new federal rule requiring public housing to be smoke-free by July 31, 2018. In August 2017, Tobacco Free Nebraska mailed new toolkits to each housing authority within the state to help achieve this requirement. In addition, Tobacco Free Nebraska brought in experts to train housing managers in September 2017. Because of this timely and useful support, housing managers continue to look to Tobacco Free Nebraska for training and tools to help adopt and implement smoke-free policies.

Tobacco Free Nebraska continues to find new ways to help housing authorities adopt HUD’s smoke-free rule, such as:

  • Renting 20 billboards with messages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Tips from Former Smokers® (Tips®) Campaign. These billboards were placed in communities that have high smoking rates and few smoke-free public housing policies.
  • Sending Tips® Campaign posters and other information about how to quit smoking to housing managers.
  • Providing web-based training to housing managers about the smoke-free housing rule.

The implementation of Tobacco Free Nebraska’s toolkits has already made an impact. In 2017, 10 housing authorities in Nebraska adopted, and 5 housing authorities began planning to adopt, new policies that meet the HUD requirements. That same year, 10 Public Housing Authorities in Nebraska took steps to update their existing smoke-free policies to better protect residents. In addition to protecting people from secondhand smoke, these smoke-free housing policies could help motivate others to quit. This work was done with funding from CDC. In addition, CDC’s scientific data, Tips® Campaign, and other CDC Media Campaign Resource Center tools were key to Tobacco Free Nebraska’s success.