THE BAN ON SMOKING IN PUBLIC HOUSING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Recently, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a required ban on smoking in public housing. Within an eighteen month-period, every Public Housing Authority (PHA) in the United States will be required to institute a smoke-free policy banning the use of prohibited tobacco products. While it may take some time to become fully implemented, the new rule will provide public housing beneficiaries nationwide with a healthy, smoke-free environment.
HUD has been recommending smoke-free housing policies to PHAs since 2009. HUD created the new rule in collaboration with PHAs and other stakeholders, which collectively provided over 1,000 comments that contributed to the drafting of the ban.
HUD lobbied for the smoking ban primarily because of its health benefits for public housing staff, visitors and residents, particularly young children susceptible to the negative health consequences of secondhand smoke, which include Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, ear infections and asthma. However, HUD promoted this ban for other important reasons. Indoor smoking commonly results in fires, which can rapidly spread to nearby housing units and endanger the lives and property of public housing residents. Because tobacco use routinely damages housing units in more common and minor ways, the smoking ban will also help HUD to save on public housing maintenance costs. HUD and PHAs can now use these saved costs to improve the lives of public housing residents.
Once implemented, the public housing smoking ban will save big on smoking-related costs, including:
- $94 million in health care costs
- $43 million in renovation costs
- $16 million in smoking-related fire losses
Currently, 228,000 of the almost 1.2 million public housing units in the United States are smoke-free, which means that more than 940,000 new units will be smoke-free by the time the ban goes into effect. Over 600 PHAs have already instituted smoke-free policies. Of the two million public housing residents in the United States, 760,000 (38 percent) are children under age 18. These vulnerable groups will greatly benefit from the public housing smoking ban.
Specifics of the Ban
Prior to the new ban, PHAs were permitted to allow smoking in housing units and on public housing grounds or to include designated smoking-permitted units. This will no longer be the case under the ban, which has rather simple guidelines. The rule prevents anyone from using lit tobacco products in any public housing areas, including:
- All living units.
- Indoor common areas.
- Administrative offices.
- Outdoor areas within 25 feet of public housing units and administrative offices.
HUD will require every PHA nationwide to include the smoke-free rule in each resident’s lease agreement. Additionally, HUD strongly recommends that PHAs establish and describe an oversight process, including monitoring and reporting violations, to help enforce the smoking ban. Although HUD does not mandate a specific penalty for violating the ban, it recommends a “graduated approach” for the smoking ban enforcement. Under this system, the PHA will warn tenants who do not adhere to the policy. The PHA will impose increasingly severe penalties, including eviction, for residents who continue to smoke after receiving a warning. HUD also recommends PHAs team up with local organizations and resources to assist residents who want to quit smoking. HUD will offer support and resources to more than 3,100 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) in order to help them put the required ban in place.