Proposed Rule Would Ban Smoking In All Public Housing

Even though smoking has reached historically low levels in the U.S., regulators continue to try to snuff out cigarettes with bans on smoking in public spaces. We’ve already seen beaches, parks, and office buildings say no to tobacco, and a new federal rule would extend this anti-smoking stance to all public housing in the U.S.

The proposed ban [PDF] , from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would require each public housing agency (PHA) to implement a smoke-free policy for common areas and administrative offices.

Specifically, the rule requires housing agencies to prohibit lit cigarettes, cigars and pipes in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings.

The rule would not apply initially to electronic cigarettes, but those restrictions could come later.

HUD anticipates that more than 700,000 units would be affected by the proposed ban, including 500,000 units inhabited by elderly households or households with a non-elderly person with disabilities.

The aim of the rule is to improve indoor air quality in public housing, benefit the health of public housing residents and PHA staff, reduce the risk of catastrophic fires, and lower overall maintenance costs, HUD says in its proposal.

“The argument about secondhand smoke is over,” Julián Castro, the federal housing secretary, tells the New York Times. “It’s harmful, and we believe it’s important that we have an environment that’s healthy in public housing.”

Under the ban, PHAs can take the ban a step further by choosing to prohibit smoking in outdoor areas like playgrounds. They can also opt to make their entire facility smoke-free.

PHAs would be required to document their smoke-free policies in tenant’s leases, public meetings and other residence engagement activities.

Violations of the rule would be treated much like other nuisance issues, Castro says, noting that they aren’t supposed to result in eviction.

“The purpose is to go smoke-free and to have healthier communities,” he said. “My hope is that housing authorities would work with residents to prepare them for this change so that any kind of punitive measures like evictions are avoided at all costs.”

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal, and housing agencies would have up to 18 months from the effective date of the final ruling to adopt smoke-free policies.

Public Housing Nationwide May Be Subject to Smoking Ban [The New York Times]

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