The Science of Why PhiladelphiaÔÇÖs Public Housing is Going Smoke Free

By Rachel Ewing
July 20, 2015, Drexel News Blog

On July 16, 2015, Philadelphia’s public housing agency became the largest in the country to go smoke-free in its communities. It’s a new policy informed by a solid base of scientific evidence-some of which was generated through evaluation research done in partnership between city agencies and the Drexel University School of Public Health.

Ann Klassen, PhD, a professor in Drexel’s School of Public Health, has worked with the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) since 2011 on the evaluation of the impact of smoking in public housing. The monitoring data from this evaluation was an important element of the evidence base that led the PHA’s Board of Commissioners to vote unanimously in support of the new policy.

“We found that 70 to 85 percent of common areas, and over 20 percent of non-smoker apartments had detectable nicotine levels-which provides important evidence that current policies are not effective in protecting residents, and that it is not possible to avoid harmful levels of secondhand smoke without community-wide smoke free policies,” Klassen said.

In addition, she told WHYY-FM, “When tobacco is used anywhere in a multi-unit building, there’s really no part of the building that won’t have air exchange and won’t be exposed to that second-hand smoke.”

Members of the news media interested speaking with Klassen to learn more about Drexel’s research and evaluation supporting Philadelphia’s ban of smoking in public housing should contact Rachel Ewing at or 215.895.2614.

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