The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled the measure Nov. 12. The decision will affect all public housing agencies in the U.S.
HUD spokesperson Julian Castro told reporters that the move was driven by the need to protect vulnerable housing residents such as the elderly, pregnant women and children with asthma against second-hand smoke.
The department estimates that the smoking ban could prevent 760,000 children from becoming ill and save $150 million every year which are now spent on health care and repairs caused by smoke to buildings.
Nevertheless, the ban will affect only cigarettes, pipes and cigars. E-cigarettes won’t be affected. Smoking will be prohibited from indoor common areas in public housing units and within 25 feet of the buildings.
But critics of the measure say that what happens in their own homes is strictly their business. They are concerned that if the proposal is passed, authorities may start telling them other things that they cannot do in the privacy of their own homes.
Critics are also concerned about the health of older smokers who will have to leave their homes in harsh weather to smoke in open spaces. Also, people are worried that the ban may lead to a surge in evictions.
Jamila Michener of Cornell University believes that it would be a better idea for HUD to enroll people in Medicaid and give them access to free or low-cost smoke-cessation programs.
Leading cigarette producers couldn’t be reached for comment.
Some public housing authorities hailed the measure. They said that smoke-free public housing would benefit most people with respiratory conditions. Authorities pledged to make the transition to smoke-free units as smooth as possible.
Second-hand smoke is a real health concern for the smokers’ family members and neighbors. People exposed to the smoke can develop cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses. Babies can even die from second-hand smoke.
Yet, HUD’s push for smoke-free areas is not new. The department encouraged the policy first six years ago. In the wake of these efforts hundreds of thousands of public housing units became smoke-free nationwide.
If the policy is enforced, 940,000 units will be affected. The move may benefit landlords as well since cleaning an apartment that was previously occupied by a heavy-smoker is a dreadful and costly task.
The public can comment on the new proposal 60 days.
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