Federal Government Bans Smoking in Public Housing as of Fall 2018
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Federal Government Bans Smoking in Public Housing as of Fall 2018

The purpose of the ban is to reduce the exposure of residents to secondhand smoke

December 2, 2016

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is banning smoking in all public housing as of fall 2018 to reduce residents' exposure to secondhand smoke.

Reuters reports that numerous healthcare groups, such as the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have wanted the ban for a long time due to the number of illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. Examples of these illnesses include asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. The HUD claims to have been encouraging public housing agencies to put no-smoking policies into place for seven years, says NPR.

Two million Americans are expected to be affected by this ban, writes Reuters, including 760,000 children and more than 300,000 senior citizens living in more than 940,000 public housing units.

Of the 3,100 public housing agencies in the U.S. , more than 600 already prohibit smoking indoors. The ban is now extended to smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes within 25 feet of all apartments, public areas, and administrative offices owned by the federal government. The ban does not include electronic cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ban could save housing agencies an estimated $153 million every year in lower healthcare costs, fewer fires, and less expensive maintenance.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro is optimistic that the incoming Trump administration would not "roll back" the new rule.

"I'm convinced that no matter the political persuasion, the public health benefit is so tremendous and the resident support for going smoke free is so tremendous that this rule will stick," he said.

Erika Sward is the assistant vice president for National Advocacy at the American Lung Association. "This is about protecting the nation's most vulnerable," she said. "No one should be exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes."

A study conducted by the CDC in 2015 found that two out of five children who live in housing subsidized by the federal government are exposed to secondhand smoke.

According to Sward, it would have been better for the ban to include federally-subsidized housing and electronic cigarettes.

Surveys conducted by the HUD show that most residents of public housing support the ban but, it said, it would back local agencies as they enforce the rule.

Jamila Michener, a professor at Cornell University, said that important health benefits are part of the policy, but she is concerned that more evictions could be the result.

"The very people we are trying to help could be hurt if we are not careful about implementation," she said. "Eviction has long-term consequences that lead to deeper poverty."