Wisconsin American Lung Association to offer public housing residents free quit smoking program

If you live in a public housing unit, smoking in your apartment will no longer be allowed starting July 31. The American Lung Association in Wisconsin is trying to help residents with the transition by offering a program to help quit smoking for free.

The “Free from Smoking” program helps to identify triggers, deal with temptations, get to the root cause of addiction and assist with relapse.

“Quitting tobacco is more difficult than quitting cocaine and heroin. It is so addictive. It takes the average person between 8 and 11 serious tries before they are successful, said Mike Taake, Freedom from Smoking facilitator.

All public housing will be required to be smoke-free by July 31,2018 under a new U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy. Under the policy, residents will not be allowed to smoke inside or within 25 feet of the building.

“The goal of this is not to evict people. The goal is we are doing everything in our power to educate the smokers on the new rule. To provide them with alternatives, such as do they want to quit smoking. If not, where can they smoke,” said Dona Wininski, director tobacco control and public policy for the American Lung Association of Wisconsin.

Local public housing authorities will be responsible for implementing the policy. HUD may use periodic inspections and audits to help monitor whether policies are being enforced.

There’s 742 public housing units, owned by the Community Development Authority in Madison. The American Lung Association of Wisconsin is partnering with the Anthem Foundation to provide the program for free to residents.

“Public housing, it tends to cater to people who are on the lower income spectrum, and that particular population smokes at substantially higher rates than the general population,” Wininsky said.

According to Wininsky, the adult smoking rate in Wisconsin is 18 percent. Those on Medicaid smoke more than double the average from 35 to 40 percent and 7,000 people in Wisconsin die from tobacco use and exposure every year, according to Wininsky.

The program has a 25 to 50 percent success rate. Taake said the biggest part of the program is offering a support system for those trying to quit smoking.

“Having these buildings become smoke-free is huge in helping people have a reason to say no, have a reason to want to quit,” he said.