Smokers at public housing across the country won’t be able to light up in and near their homes after Tuesday.
In November 2016, HUD announced a rule requiring all federally owned public housing to become smoke-free by July 30, 2018. Smokers will still be allowed to rent in the communities but will have to keep lit cigarettes, cigars and pipes at least 25 feet away from buildings. Electronic cigarettes will still be permitted.
According to the American Lung Association, this rule will protect close to 2 million Americans nationwide from being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, including 690,000 children.
The rule will be part of residents’ leases — along with information about how to quit smoking — and tenants who break it could be evicted, HUD has said. But just one violation “is not grounds for eviction,” and smoking on public housing premises is a civil violation, not a crime, the agency said in setting guidelines for local enforcement.
The federal ban will save public agencies an estimated $153 million every year in costs related to health care due to secondhand smoke, as well as repairs and losses from preventable fires, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The ban will affect more than 940,000 public housing units across the country, according to HUD. Through the agency’s voluntary policy and local initiatives, more than 228,000 public housing units were already smoke-free in 2016.
Along with promoting the health benefits of not smoking, HUD hopes the new rule will also “create healthy environments that encourage people who smoke to quit or attempt to reduce smoking,” the agency says.
“Secondhand smoke is a serious health threat, and can linger in rooms and even travel between homes in multi-unit housing,” said Linda Crider, executive director of the American Lung Association in Kansas & Greater Kansas City. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy life, and ensuring homes are free from the risks of secondhand smoke is a critical step for the health of residents,” Crider said. “This is especially true for children and those who are more vulnerable to the impact of secondhand smoke, such as those living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Today, we’re making a healthier future for our country.”