Federal agency to ban smoking in public housing

Published 10:24 am Monday, December 5, 2016

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced Wednesday that public housing developments in the U.S. will now be required to provide a smoke-free environment for their residents, according to a HUD press release.

In an address to local public housing officials, residents and public health professionals in Boston, Castro said HUD’s new rule will provide resources and support to more than 3,100 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) to implement required smoke-free policies over the next 18 months.

Cele Quesada, executive director for the Port Arthur Housing Authority, said the newest complex, Park Central Apartments on FM 365, is a smoke-free environment.

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He said the PAHA is reviewing the lawful requirements for a smoking ban.

“We’re still looking at it,” he said. “Some housing authorities have implemented it. It’s a good idea. Smokers can contract health issues and secondary recipients can contract health issues from smoking.”

Quesada said the lease at Park Central requires them not to smoke.

“It’s a difficult thing to enforce, though. It’s not a civil right (to smoke),” he said. “There are secondary indications someone has been smoking on the inside. If they get three or more warnings, it could lead to an eviction.”

Quesada believes most residents who live in public housing aren’t smokers and they will support the policy, but smokers are addicted and the challenge is how to address the issue.

Throughout this year, HUD worked with PHAs and stakeholders collaboratively to finalize this 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 release says. HUD’s final rule included input from more than 1,000 comments from PHAs, housing and health partners, and tenant advocates.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke,” said Castro. “HUD’s smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities. By working collaboratively with public housing agencies, HUD’s rule will create healthier homes for all of our families and prevent devastating and costly smoking-related fires.”

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

David Ball: 409-721-2427