Smoke-free housing to protect millions from the dangers of secondhand smoke to take effect July 31
A smoke-free policy goes into effect at all federal public housing units tomorrow, thanks to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rule finalized in 2016. The policy protects residents and staff of public housing units, where many senior citizens, children and people with disabilities live, and underscores the danger of secondhand smoke in all multiunit housing complexes, such as apartment buildings.
Several studies have proven that secondhand smoke can permeate throughout multifamily housing, moving from units occupied by smokers into units occupied by nonsmokers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, although 8 in 10 multiunit housing residents had smoke-free homes, about one-third of those residents reported experiencing secondhand smoke that involuntarily entered their home from other areas in their building. The surgeon general’s 2006 report concluded that secondhand smoke indisputably increases the risk of serious respiratory problems and infections in children and causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke.
We applaud HUD for including waterpipe/hookah tobacco in its smoke-free policy. Hookah involves combustion, and hookah smoke exposes users to many of the same toxicants found in cigarette smoke, and may place users at risk for many of the same diseases as cigarette smokers.
Public housing authorities should focus their enforcement efforts on educating smokers about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, including the risks in a multiunit environment, along with increasing the availability of quitting services. Eviction should not be used as an enforcement mechanism, as smoking is an extremely addictive behavior. While we believe e-cigarettes should be included in clean-air policies concerning public places, we are pleased that the new rule does not limit the use of these products in individual homes, as these products provide smokers with an alternative to smoking that produces significantly less risk of individual harm.