Proposed rule would ban smoking in public housing

By Laura Mize • Published: February 18th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Should residents in public housing communities be able to light up on the premises?

The federal government doesn’t think so and has taken steps to ban the practice. The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule in November 2014 that would prohibit lit tobacco inside any public housing property nationwide. That includes the residences themselves, common areas and public housing offices. The ban also would cover a 25-foot exterior area surrounding any buildings.

One concern motivating the proposed rule change is the health of both residents and workers at more than 700,000 dwelling units. If put into effect, the rule would protect almost 800,000 children. Other incentives include improving indoor air quality and reducing fire risk and maintenance costs.

In some cities, public housing authorities have already prohibited smoking. The federal government’s rule would require the rest to adopt the policy within 18 months.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ban targets a population that is especially prone to smoking. The agency reports that the national smoking rate among adults declined from 2005 through 2014. However, several groups remain more vulnerable to smoking than the general population.

Among people who lack health insurance or depend on Medicaid, smoking rates are double those of people covered by private insurance or Medicare. Many people who live in public housing are uninsured or underinsured.

Of course, a public housing ban on smoking won’t stop everyone who lives there from smoking. But discouraging the behavior — and cutting housing costs and risks — seems like it will be good for everyone.