HUD: Stub Out Smoking in All Public Housing

Agency pushing for law to protect residents nationwide from secondhand smoke
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2015 11:53 AM CST
HUD Secretary Julian Castro is shown on June 17, 2014, before the Senate Banking Committee hearing on his nomination.   (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

(Newser) – HUD proposed a federal mandate Thursday that has some smokers fuming: a ban against lighting up in public housing nationwide, the New York Times reports. If the law passes, more than 3,100 public housing agencies would prohibit smoking in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices, and outdoor spaces near those other areas, the Washington Post notes. The reason: to keep residents safe from secondhand smoke, cut down on fire risks, and curb building maintenance expenses, per the Times. "The argument about secondhand smoke is over," HUD Secretary Julian Castro tells the paper. "It's harmful." Since HUD started encouraging public housing groups to implement bans in 2009, more than 600 agencies with at least 228,000 units have gone smoke-free, per the Post—but now the federal housing department wants to make it universal.

A study by the CDC backs up the economics, predicting that a nationwide ban would result in annual savings of $153 million. The group that would feel the biggest burn: the NYC Housing Agency, the nation's largest public-housing group, with more than 400,000 residents in about 178,000 apartments, per the Times. But some worry that, without community support, it will be difficult to enforce, and they don't think the cops should be involved. "It should be resident-led," the chairwoman of the NYCHA tells the Times. HUD says it will listen to public comments on the potential law before making a final decision. (Read more smoking stories.)

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