By end of this month, smokers will no longer be allowed to light up cigarettes, cigars, and pipes inside and near all public housing nationwide.

Everyone, including the residents, would have to be at least 25 feet away from the public-house buildings to smoke. The ban includes all common areas in the public housing and any outdoor areas within the 25 feet parameters according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco and snuff were not mentioned in the policy ban but HUD said there could be restrictions on these products depending on the location.

HUD said the policy was made to promote the health benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle and raise awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke. The department also hopes that the new rule can encourage people to at least reduce their smoking habit. Ideally, the department hopes people can quit smoking altogether.

Smoke-Free Public Housing

The rule will be included in residents' leases given by public housing agencies. Tenants who will not comply could be evicted according to HUD. Violation of the smoking ban, however, does not constitute a crime. It will only be a civil violation.

The policy specifically states that smoking will be prohibited "inside all indoor areas of public housing, including but not limited to living units, indoor common areas, electrical closets, storage units, and PHA administrative office buildings, and in all outdoor areas within 25 feet of the housing and administrative office."

"The PHAs may, but are not required to, further restrict smoking to outdoor dedicated smoking areas outside the restricted areas, create additional restricted areas in which smoking is prohibited (e.g., near a playground), or, alternatively, make their entire grounds smoke-free," the policy states.

The PHAs are also being required to document and inform their residents of their smoke-free policies through public meetings or any other similar events.

HUD announced the policy two years ago but allowed the more than 3,300 local public housing authorities time to implement it. The policy was passed during the Obama administration back in November of 2016. There had been more than 600 local PHAs that have implemented it, resulting to 228,000 public housing units that have been smoke-free.

The ban starting on July 31 will hopefully force an additional 940,000 units to ban smoking within their premises.

Smoke Ban Help Limit Health Care Costs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2014 that government housing agencies can save about $153 million a year in repairs and health care costs if they strictly implement the smoking ban. The PHAs would also save $16 million for fire incidents linked to smoking. 

CDC highlighted that residents of public housing are exposed to secondhand smoke that can penetrate ventilation systems and windows. This was of particular concern because a large number of public housing dwellers are children, the elderly, and the disabled who are all vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke.

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