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August 11, 2015

Contact: Steve Longo                                                                                                                           
Date: August 11, 2015


For Immediate Release

ALBANY, NY – Today, in a decision that will make Albany Housing Authority apartments and homes far more healthy for all its residents and visitors, the AHA Board of Commissioners voted to make its units smoke-free. The new policy, which will cover all 2,200 units, will go into effect on January 1, 2016. The AHA’s smoke-free policy is supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the New York State Department of Health, the Albany County Department of Health, and Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition.

“As a former smoker, I understand the power of addiction,” said AHA executive director Steve Longo. “But my role, and the role of the board, is to protect the housing and health of those with limited means who don’t smoke. This will improve the air quality for everyone.” Longo noted that years of research shows that smoke travels between units and that the only way to reduce the risk of second-hand smoke is to prohibit smoking inside buildings. The housing authority will be sensitive in implementing the policy, Longo said, and plans to work to connect residents who want to quit with smoking cessation programs.

“This was a big decision—and a bold decision,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “By improving the health of all those who live in Housing Authority homes—especially children—this decision improves the health of our entire City.”

“Studies show that smoke-free policies create environments that encourage people who smoke to quit or attempt to quit,” said County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “Smoke-free policies also reduce fire risks for residents, owners and property managers, as studies show that smoking-related fires are the leading cause of fire deaths.”

“We know that exposure to secondhand smoke for even for a short time can cause serious medical problems, including heart attacks, lung cancer, asthma, and COPD,” said Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen, MD, MPH. “Second-hand smoke is also associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), premature births, and low birth weight. Smoke can hurt children’s lungs and make it difficult for those with asthma to breathe. By eliminating second-hand smoke, Housing Authority units will become much healthier.”

“People can breathe easy in Albany’s public parks,” said Albany Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs, who sponsored the City legislation for tobacco-free parks in Albany, which went into effect on January 1, 2015, “and now they can breathe easy in the Albany’s public housing.” Applyrs said that studies have shown that some of the highest hospitalization rates for asthma in Albany are in the South End, where a large proportion of AHA housing is located.

“We’re working to build tobacco-free communities,” said Judy Rightmyer, Director of the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition, “and this decision by the Authority’s board allows residents in over two thousand homes to breathe healthy, smoke-free air. This new policy will greatly improve the quality of life for all the residents and their children in Albany’s affordable housing. Congratulations on such a bold, life-changing decision.”




Chartered in 1686, the City of Albany is the oldest continuously chartered city in the United States, and has been the State Capital since 1797. Although the City is the seat of State Government and a thriving center of education, culture and commerce, its real spirit lies in its diverse and vibrant neighborhoods. In January 2014 Kathy M. Sheehan became the City’s 75th Mayor.