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Public housing in Milwaukee goes smoke-free, and it's working

On July 31, all public housing across the nation went smoke-free. Since the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued the new rule banning tobacco use in and near public housing, Milwaukee has started to witness success stories.

Meet Dorise Hardin, an African-American woman who started smoking at a young age and just successfully quit, thanks to this new initiative to keep public housing residents tobacco-free.

Learn more about the new HUD rule and the services provided to residents in the audio story below.

Public housing complexes with multiple families have a facilitator visit to teach quitting methods in-person. Photo provided by Lorraine Lathen
With HUD going smoke-free, the American Lung Association offered free smoking cessation, or quitting, services to residents who would need to end their habits. But not all solutions are compatible with those trying to kick the smoking habit, proving just how difficult it is to quit.

To help, the ALA offers online educational and counseling services, phone counseling and eight-week in-person training programs in public housing residencies serving multiple families. They work one-on-one with residents to pick the best program to accommodate their day-to-day lives.

Edgar Mendez, who is the program coordinator for the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network, says despite adult smoking rates going down overall, the statistic isn’t accurate in communities of color.

“We do know the more tobacco retailers in an area, the higher the smoking rates, the more the youth exposure, the greater the chance the youth will pick up the habit,” says Mendez.

In low-income neighborhoods, with food deserts and an overflow of liquor stores, it is easier to walk to the corner store to purchase a pack of cigarettes than it is to buy a bundle of vegetables.

Dorise Hardin, a former smoker and public housing resident who successfully quit, says the access to tobacco is abundant, whereas the access to information about it is minimal.

"The flooding of the tobacco products in our neighborhood, it is

a negative impact on our youth," says Hardin. "As a community, when we know better, we can do better."

Hardin credits her new smoke-free lifestyle to the recent HUD rule and the cessation services she had access to.

Visit the ALA's website for more information about bringing cessation services to your public housing residency and tips to quit smoking.