Feds to help CHA tenants kick habit

Posted: 4/23/2010

From Chicago Sun-Times:

The Chicago Housing Authority's Roosevelt Square development will gradually go smoke-free as part of a federally funded pilot program announced Thursday.

Under the proposed plan, new tenants in the West Side development would have the option of choosing a smoke-free residence. And smokers already living in Roosevelt Square who want to quit would be paired with CHA residents trained as smoking-cessation counselors.

"This project will lay critical groundwork for helping Chicago Housing Authority units become smoke-free down the road and will engage residents in changing their behavior to make their own communities safer and healthier," said Ron Sims, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Three other CHA buildings now under construction also will be designated as smoke-free housing when they open, CHA spokesman Matt Aguilar said.

The Roosevelt Square pilot is part of a larger program called the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project, which aims to decrease tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure citywide by focusing on groups with high smoking rates, such as low-income African Americans.

Other yet-to-be-announced programs will target smoking rates among pregnant women, military veterans, food service workers and members of the gay and lesbian community, said Joel Africk, president of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Chicago was one of 44 communities chosen to receive federal grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement obesity- or smoking-prevention projects. The city's $11.5 million grant will allow the respiratory health association and the Chicago Department of Public Health to launch the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project over the next two years.

In response to a question from a CHA resident, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at an afternoon press conference that the CHA pilot program isn't meant to discriminate against public housing residents who smoke.

"There isn't any mandatory piece to this," Sebelius said.

"Nobody's going to be the smoking police. It really recognizes the fact that a lot of people who smoke say they'd love to get some help to stop smoking. And it allows the parents who would love help to make sure their kids never start smoking in the first place."

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For more information on the smoke-free project, visit our Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project page.