Individual public housing authorities (PHAs) have until July 31, 2018 to comply with a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) smoke free rule finalized on November 30, 2016. The rule is designed to eliminate risks of secondhand smoke and improve air quality in multi-family housing. According to the American Lung Association, the smoke free public housing rule reduces secondhand smoking risks for two million Americans, including 760,000 children.
The rule applies to residential units and common areas for Section 9 public housing, but does not require PHAs to restrict smoking in outdoor dedicated smoking areas or make entire grounds smoke free. According to the Christian Science Monitor, HUD indicated there were already 228,000 smoke free public housing units when it finalized the rule, but another 940,000 public units would need to comply within 18 months.
Low-Income Residents Have Higher Secondhand Smoke & Fire Safety Risks
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Surgeon General long ago concluded that eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.
Cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have found that low-income residents in subsidized housing are disproportionately exposed to secondhand smoke and face health consequences, like asthma, because they are unable to escape it.
The Lung Association has developed an online curriculum to help PHAs implement a smoke free policy by engaging building mangers and property owners and providing resources to help smokers quit. It has helped multi-unit housing develop smoke free policies and is currently working with half of U.S. states to implement smoke free policies. On the local level, the organization works with public organizations like the Milwaukee Fire Department to spread awareness about the dangers of smoking in multi-family housing, including increased fire risk:
Smoke Free Public Housing in 6 Steps
Smoke-Free Housing Indiana has outlined how to transition to smoke free public housing in 150 days with six steps:
#1 Gauge resident readiness with a survey.
#2 Draft a smoke free housing policy.
#3 Set a timeline for change with at least 60 days notice and develop a Smoke-free Lease Addendum that residents must sign.
#4 Engage residents with education about what’s behind the policy, and offer smoking cessation resources. Peers and organized activities — like group walks — can help residents cope with the side effects of nicotine withdrawals.
#5 Promote the policy through active communications in public housing common areas, on websites, in newsletters and on social media.
#6 Enforce the policy once it becomes effective by training staff on violation procedures and discuss ways to address questions or concerns from residents.
HUD also has an online resource guide with templates, including a resident survey, customizable secondhand smoking fact sheets, notices and more, as well as a webinar overview of the policy designed for PHAs: