HUD Aims to Implement Smoke-Free Public Housing Policies

According to HUD Seretary Julián Castro, the proposed rule could help public housing agencies save $153 million every year.

By Keith Loria, Contributing Editor

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed a new rule that would require more than 3,100 of the nation’s public housing agencies (PHAs) to implement smoke-free policies in their developments within 18 months of the final rule.

The proposed rule asks all PHAs to implement a policy prohibiting lit tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings.

“We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially the elderly and children who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases,” said Julián Castro, HUD’s secretary. “This proposed rule will help improve the health of more than 760,000 children and help public housing agencies save $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires.”

According to recent figures by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Additionally, HUD’s proposed smoke-free rule will also help reduce damage and maintenance costs associated with smoking. It is estimated that smoking causes over 100,000 fires each year, resulting in more than 500 death and close to half a billion dollars in direct property damage; additionally, smoking is the lead cause of fire related deaths in multifamily buildings.

The HUD rule aims to reduce the public health risks associated with tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, enhancing its efforts to provide increased public health protection for residents of public housing.

“Everyone—no matter where they live—deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy, smoke-free home,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said. “There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. So, when 58 million Americans—including 15 million children— are exposed to secondhand smoke, we have an obligation to act. That is what Secretary Castro is doing with this proposal.”

The proposed rule is expected to impact the more than 940,000 units that are currently smoke-free, including more than 500,000 units inhabited by elderly households.

HUD is seeking public comment on this proposed rule over the next two months.

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