WASHINGTON – Public housing developments in the United States will have 18 months to provide a smoke-free environment for residents under a new HUD policy announced Nov. 30.

In an address to local public housing officials, residents and public health professionals in Boston, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said HUD’s new rule will provide resources and support to more than 3,100 public housing agencies to implement required smoke-free policies over the next 18 months, according to a news release.

Throughout this year, HUD worked with public housing agencies and the community to finalize the rule, which prohibits lit tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices, and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings. The final rule included input from more than 1,000 comments from agencies, housing and health partners and tenant advocates.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful secondhand cigarette smoke,” Castro said. “HUD’s smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities."

He said that by working collaboratively with public housing agencies, HUD’s rule will create healthier homes for all families and prevent devastating and costly smoking-related fires.

Since 2009, HUD has encouraged public housing agencies to adopt smoke-free policies in their buildings and common areas. More than 600 public housing agencies and tribally designated housing entities have adopted smoke-free policies.

Through HUD’s voluntary policy and local initiatives, more than 228,000 public housing units are already smoke-free. The smoke-free rule is expected to impact more than 940,000 units, including more than 500,000 units inhabited by elderly people and 760,000 children living in public housing once fully implemented.

HUD’s smoke-free rule is expected to reduce damage and maintenance costs associated with smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national smoke-free policy will save public housing agencies $153 million every year in repairs and preventable fires, including $94 million in secondhand smoke-related health care, $43 million in renovation of smoking-permitted units, and $16 million in smoking-related fire losses.

It is estimated that smoking causes more than 100,000 fires each year nationwide, resulting in more than 500 deaths and nearly a half a billion dollars in direct property damage.

“Protecting people from secondhand smoke saves lives and saves money,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. “This is especially important in the places where we live. No level of secondhand smoke exposure is safe, and the home is the primary source of secondhand smoke for children.”

The CDC estimates cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans each year, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking is the lead cause of fire-related deaths in multifamily dwellings.

For information and resources see HUD's Healthy Homes website. Updated guidance and training materials will be available in the coming months.

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