UTEP Grant to Assist with Implementation of Smoke-Free Public Housing Statewide

The UTEP School of Pharmacy has been awarded a $180,000 grant from the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) to assist Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) in Texas to develop, implement and enforce smoke-free policies.

Nora Y. Hernandez, a program coordinator/manager at UTEP, will lead the project as principal investigator with co-principal investigator and School of Pharmacy Founding Dean José 0. Rivera, Pharm.D. UTEP alumna Kristen E. Ortega will assist with the project.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires PHAs nationwide to implement a policy that prohibits the use of all lit tobacco products inside all dwelling units, indoor common areas, and PHA administrative office buildings by July 31, 2018. The policy must also extend to 25 feet from all housing and administrative buildings.

PHAs also have the discretion to strengthen the policy to include extending the 25-foot rule and/or establish additional smoke-free areas, such as playgrounds.

“Smoke-free policies have been shown to reduce property maintenance costs, unit turnover time, and risk of fires,” said Hernandez, who received a Master of Business Administration from UTEP. “They are also beneficial for the overall health of residents, staff and guests, as there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. The focus of this project is to promote health and wellness among public housing communities and create an air of respect throughout Texas communities.”

Hernandez will work with PHA executive directors, property managers and resident council chairs to provide technical assistance on smoke-free housing policies and education on tobacco treatment resources, and to develop a comprehensive database of public housing policies in Texas.

UTEP is part of the Texas Smoke-Free Public Housing Task Force, which includes TDSHS, MD Anderson, Austin Public Health, Wichita Falls Housing Authority, Foundation Communities, and the American Cancer Society.

The task force aims to improve the health and well-being of Texas residents through promotion and implementation of smoke-free public housing