Federal Housing Department Proposes Public Housing Smoking Ban
The rule would prohibit smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes in public housing agencies':
- Administrative offices;
- Indoor common areas;
- Living units; and
- Outdoor areas that are within 25 feet of housing or administrative office buildings.
Under the proposed rule, public housing agencies could impose additional restrictions, such as prohibiting smoking near playgrounds.
Electronic cigarettes would not be prohibited under the proposed rule, although federal officials are seeking comments on whether to include such devices in the ban (Navarro, New York Times, 11/12).
The ban would be added to tenant leases issued by the more than 3,100 public housing agencies across the U.S. (Markon, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 11/12). More than 228,000 public housing units already ban smoking, but more than 940,000 units do not (HUD release, 11/12).
According to HUD Secretary Julián Castro, violations of the ban would be addressed similar to nuisance violations, which typically are reported by employees or neighbors and are not intended to lead to evictions. He said, "My hope is that housing authorities would work with residents to prepare them for this change so that any kind of punitive measures like evictions are avoided at all costs" (New York Times, 11/12).
The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days. Under the proposal, public housing agencies would have up to 18 months from the final rule's effective date to implement the ban (Kerr, AP/U.S. News & World Report, 11/12).
Public Health Effects
Federal officials said the rule would:
- Help protect public housing residents form secondhand smoke;
- Lower building maintenance costs; and
- Reduce the risk of fires.
Castro said, "The argument about secondhand smoke is over," adding, "It's harmful, and we believe it's important that we have an environment that's healthy in public housing" (New York Times, 11/12).
According to a statement from Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, "Everyone -- no matter where they live -- deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy, smoke-free home."
A 2014 CDC study found that banning smoking in public housing would save $94 million a year in health costs related to secondhand smoke and more than $50 million annually in averted fire losses and maintenance costs ("Federal Eye," Washington Post, 11/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.