The federal government may soon require all public housing units nationwide to become smoke-free.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a policy Thursday that will require more than 3,100 public housing agencies across the country to make their properties smoke-free.
“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,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a statement.
Castro said the 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.
The policy would ban lit tobacco products in all residences, indoor common areas and administrative offices. Smoking would also be prohibited outdoors within 25 feet of housing and administrative buildings. The public has 60 days to comment on the rule. The ban will begin 18 months after the rule is finalized.
Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) have already been moving towards smoke-free policies in their buildings and common areas for the past six years. During this time, more than 600 PHAs and tribally designated housing entities nationwide adopted smoke-free policies. The proposed rule would impact the more than 940,000 units where smoking is allowed.
Most of the housing authorities in South Carolina do not currently have outright bans, although individual property managers have the right to create their own bans if they desire.
The nation’s surgeon general said the rule is needed to protect public housing residents from secondhand smoke. “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,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in the announcement.
Kimberly Washington filed this report