Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure of being an intern at NYC Smoke Free at Public Health Solutions in Queens. I got this position through the CUNY Service Corps program in Queens College. NYC Smoke Free is an organization that works to combat tobacco companies, educate the public about the dangers of smoking, and advocate the benefits of living in smoke free spaces.
Being an intern, I assist with many of the projects that Smoke Free is working on in Queens. I visited legislators to educate about smoke free housing, assisted with letters to smoke free housing and smoke free media, and I visited high schools to help with school clubs and outreach with the program.
Queens College, as well as all the CUNY campuses, are smoke free campuses, where students can breathe cleaner air. We are working on other colleges on going completely smoke free as well. Being a part of the program and the organization has been an invaluable experience and I enjoy learning about the ways we can end the smoking epidemic in New York City.
NYC Smoke Free has been working on many different projects throughout the past few months. One ongoing large project that we have been working on throughout my time at NYC Smoke Free in Queens is the Reality Check project.
Reality Check is a program for high school students to give them the tools to promote others to live a smoke free lifestyle. Students across all five boroughs go to a weekend retreat in upstate New York to learn about being a leader and what they can do in order to create a healthier community for themselves. In addition, they learn about networking and communicating to people whom they may not have thought they can reach out to, such as the legislators for their districts and State.
I got to work with Vanessa Yvon and reach out to the students who are interested in the program and going on the leadership retreat. I did much of the background research in which I researched the schools to target that might be interested in the program.
Another project that we have been working on is Smoke Free Housing led by Joel Bhuiyan in Queens.
Much of the latest News in New York City has been focused on Public Housing Developments in New York State and nationwide. The goal is having public housing buildings smoke free, and to have designated areas outside where smokers can light up. NYC Smoke Free advocates this because of the numerous benefits this would give to both smokers and non-smokers.
Most smokers say that they want to quit and not being able to smoke in their home would give them one more incentive to quit smoking. In addition, programs would be offered to current smokers in order to help them quit the habit. Non-smokers would gain the benefit of not suffering from second-hand smoke in the building, since the smoke travels through the openings in the doors and in the walls. One thing I have learned is that if one person smokes in the building, everyone smokes in the building.
As a CUNY Service Corps intern at NYC Smoke Free, I have learned a lot from the organization in Queens. I had the opportunity of visiting Queens legislators to educate them about our organization. I went with Vanessa Yvon to meet with local high school students about how they can advocate for themselves to remove tobacco advertisements in their communities and organize their own clubs.
If there is one important message I learned about the organization, it is that we are not looking down on current smokers or targeting them—we are targeting tobacco companies to stop advertising to young people in order to stop the cycle of smoking. We are creating a healthier New York City starting with the Queens Borough by limiting the advertisements and accessibility to tobacco. It is a pleasure to be a part of the organization and I look forward to seeing the progress of what we accomplish as I further my studies in school.
Rebecca Tepp is a Queens College student.