Op-ed: In Queens, smoke-free buildings are possible!

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For decades, we have known the consequences of tobacco smoke on the human body. We went from understanding smoking as a risk to personal health, to understanding that the smoke exhaled or released into the air by a burning cigarette is damaging the health of our loved ones and broader communities. The tobacco industry does not take responsibility for the health burden created by their products, nor do they take responsibility for the waste created by the existence of commercial tobacco.

Despite this, we can choose to make our environments smoke-free. Along with the numerous benefits of quitting smoking, creating environments that decrease our exposure to secondhand smoke is crucial. Below you will find some of the benefits of smoke-free environments:

1. Less litter

Cigarettes are the most common form of litter in the world, with 4.5 trillion discarded every year. Adopting a smoke-free policy could deter the accumulation of tobacco waste in the communal spaces of our apartment buildings. Additionally, the packaging of cigarette vapes products, which also contribute to litter, would also be lessened.

2. Cleaner air more often

Along with encountering cigarette waste less, the air in the building will be free of smoke. Though it may seem like someone’s decision to smoke in their apartment only applies to them, tobacco smoke travels through vents, cracks in the walls and floors, and can even affect the air if smoked in front of the building or on personal balconies, a point emphasized by the American Lung Association.

Adopting a smoke-free policy is possible with help! Rallying fellow residents to discuss the issue of tobacco and vape smoke in the building and working with management to distribute a survey to gauge the interest of your building can be an empowering place to start from.

Queens residents have additional support through smoke-free initiatives at NYC Smoke-Free, a program of Public Health Solutions, dedicated to achieving clean air in our communities. Our community engagement team can shephard you through the process of inquiring on and adopting smoke-free policy.

For more information on NYC Smoke-Free or to lend support in ending NYC’s devastating tobacco epidemic please visit www.NYCSmokeFree.org.


Ayisha Green is the Queens Reality Check youth engagement manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions. She applies tobacco control policy, advocacy and education towards ending the smoking epidemic in New York City and improving the health of residents.