HUD Smoke-Free Proposal, Although Healthy, May Get Some Pushback

November 18, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

smoking-1545803There are certain ideas that on the outset seem like a good, healthy proposals. However, in reality, such ideas may not prove so easy to accomplish.

This is what I thought when I saw a proposed rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Tuesday’s Federal Register that would require each public housing agency (PHA) administering public housing to implement a smoke-free policy.  The rule proposes that no later than 18 months from the effective date of the final rule, each PHA must implement a policy prohibiting lit tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas in public housing, and in PHA administrative office buildings (in brief, a smoke-free policy for all public housing indoor areas). In addition, the smoke-free policy must also extend to all outdoor areas up to 25 feet from the housing and administrative office buildings.

So why is HUD so gung-ho about PHAs going smoke-free? It touted the need to to improve indoor air quality in public housing, the benefits to the health of public housing residents and PHA staff, the potential reduction in the risk of catastrophic fires at public housing facilities and lower overall maintenance costs.

HUD has been going in this direction for some time. In 2009, HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing published a notice that strongly encouraged PHAs to adopt smoke-free policies in at least some of the properties that they managed, reissuing the notice in 2012. HUD’s Office of Housing issued a similar program notice in 2010 that encouraged owners/operators of subsidized multifamily properties to adopt smoke-free policies (again, this notice was reissued in 2012). In June 2012, HUD published more detailed information on smoke-free housing policies for residents and the providers of subsidized housing, referred to as “smoke-free toolkits.” As a result, more than 500 PHAs have implemented smoke-free policies in at least one of their buildings.

All this sounds like a no-brainer, right? The health and safety reasons are a definite draw to banning indoor smoking. However, the lure of nicotine is hard to shake, and those residents living in public housing that have smoked for years inside their dwellings may not be so willing to change their ways. Making all living units smoke-free could prove quite challenging, and I expect to see numerous confrontations between residents and PHA directors should this proposed rule become final.

It will be interesting to see what comments emerge from this proposed rule. If you’d like to voice your opinion, comments can be sent to Regulations.gov by Jan. 19, 2016.

We’d like to hear what you think about this proposal. Let us know.

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