Nearly 5,000 Take “Smoke-Free Homes Pledge” in Maine
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer.1 In Maine, exposure to secondhand smoke remains a serious public health problem. Allowing smoking to occur inside the home increases the probability of exposure of children and adolescents to secondhand smoke. In 2015, 25.4% of middle school youth and 34.4% of high school youth reported having been in the same room with someone who was smoking cigarettes sometime during the past week.2
In 1997, Maine increased its cigarette excise tax from $0.37 to $0.74 and used a portion of those funds to establish a comprehensive tobacco prevention program known as the Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine. The Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine’s mission is to reduce disability, disease, and death due to tobacco use and exposure among Maine citizens. Maine has subsequently augmented its program with proceeds from a state tobacco settlement, which also resulted in a further increase in cigarette taxes. Maine raised cigarette taxes to $1.00 per pack in 2001 and $2.00 per pack in 2005. In an effort to address secondhand smoke exposure in their state, the Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fund the City of Portland’s Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine, which seeks to promote strong voluntary policies that lead to reduced tobacco use and involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.3
The Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine has implemented several initiatives that promote tobacco-free living across Maine, including the Smoke-Free Housing Coalition, the Maine Tobacco-Free College Network, and the Maine Tobacco-Free Hospital Network. One major activity of the Smoke-Free Housing Coalition has been the Smoke-Free Homes Pledge Program. The Smoke-Free Homes Pledge Program began in 2008 to protect residents in multi-unit buildings from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke by creating opportunities for community-based organizations, health professionals, and childcare providers to encourage families to pledge not to smoke inside the home, not permit others to smoke in the home, and to only smoke outside and away from children.4 To promote these efforts, the Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine implemented a media campaign to promote the Smoke-Free Homes Pledge through a variety of media outlets, including their website, social media, and community partners. The campaign promotes messages about the dangers of secondhand smoke to increase participation in the pledge. Once people take the pledge, they receive a pledge kit in the mail that provides additional education and support for keeping smoke out of the home, including an educational pamphlet, magnet, stickers, and more.5
Since the inception of the Smoke-Free Homes Pledge Program, more than 4,900 Maine families have taken the pledge. In addition, Maine’s efforts to promote tobacco-free living and reduce involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke have led to each of Maine’s 20 public housing authorities voluntarily adopting smoke-free policies. In addition to Maine’s public housing authorities adopting policies, recent Maine data demonstrate that 65% of all private multi-unit housing properties have chosen to go smoke-free, and tenants prefer smoke-free buildings at a rate of 77%.6 Maine’s success is in large part due to the coordinated efforts of many private and public sector groups working together to protect the health of its residents, especially the most vulnerable populations, including children. The efforts in Maine to limit the number of homes where families are exposed to secondhand smoke will help keep both children and adults healthier.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2014 [accessed 2015 Dec 7].
Breathe Easy Coalition of Maine
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