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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development calls for smoke-free public housing

Proposed rule aims to reduce public housing residents’ exposure to second-hand smoke, as well as reduce smoke-related maintenance costs and fire risk

New York, NY – Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrates that secondhand smoke is an extremely prevalent problem in multi-unit housing. According to their July 2016 press release, tobacco smoke often travels from smokers’ units into those of non-smokers, as well as common areas such as hallways and lobbies. This puts all residents, especially children, at risk of exposure. According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, and second-hand exposure to children can have devastating consequences, ranging from asthma to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In an effort to address this issue, approximately 600 of the nation’s 3,300 public housing authorities (PHAs) have made at least one of their buildings smoke-free. While this is a solid foundation to build upon for a completely smoke-free public housing environment, much of the country’s public housing remains largely unregulated.

On November 30th, 2016, Secretary Julián Castro of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that a new rule had been implemented requiring all PHAs to now provide smoke-free environments for their residents within the following 18 months. Throughout the year, HUD has worked with PHAs, housing and health partners, and tenant advocates to create a final rule which prohibits combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes in all public housing properties, as well as all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings. This rule was created based out of the need to provide safe, smoke-free homes for children living in public housing units. Out of 2 million residents living in public housing, there are more than 760,000 children under the age of 18.

HUD’s smoke-free rule is not only expected to dramatically reduce second-hand smoke exposure, but decrease smoke-related maintenance and repair costs for PHAs as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this rule will save agencies up to $153 million every year, including $94 million in health care costs, $43 million in renovation of smoking-permitted units, and $16 million in smoke-related fire reparations.

“Exposure to secondhand smoke can mean the difference between a healthy childhood, and one spent taking recurrent trips to an emergency room to receive treatment for smoke-related health issues.” said Dawn Middleton, Project Director of the COE for HSI. “HUD’s new rule for smoke-free public housing would ensure that future generations can live healthier lives, free from the devastating consequences of secondhand smoke.”

For more information about the work of the COE for HSI, visit

About CAI: CAI is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of underserved populations worldwide. Since 1979, CAI has provided customized capacity building services to health and human service organizations in more than 27 countries and in all 50 states. Offering more than 1,500 training programs annually, CAI’s passionate staff works to fulfill its mission: to use the transformative power of education and research to foster a more aware, healthy, compassionate and equitable world. For more information about CAI, visit our website:

About the Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement: With funding from the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control, CAI serves as the Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement (COE for HSI) for a Tobacco-Free New York. The COE for HSI promotes large-scale systems and policy changes to support the universal provision of evidence-based tobacco dependence treatment services. The COE for HSI aims to support 10 regional contractors throughout New York State working with health care systems and organizations that serve those populations for which tobacco use prevalence rates have not decreased in recent years – adults with low incomes, less than a high school diploma, and/or serious mental illness. Focused on providing capacity-building assistance services around topics like how to engage and obtain buy-in from leadership to implement the kinds of systems-level changes that will result in identification and intervention with every tobacco user who seeks care, the COE for HSI also will offer materials and resources to support contractors in their regional work. For more information, visit

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