HUD is currently accepting comments on a proposed smoking ban in public housing. The new rule would extend a current ban that includes public areas and administrative offices to residents’ homes. In HUD’s press release, Secretary Castro stated that the smoking ban will “protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.”
Earlier this year, the Center for Urban and Regional Studies asked Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) public housing residents about their health, how often they smoke, and whether they would support a ban within public housing. These questions were part of a larger survey conducted for the CHA to evaluate its Moving Forward (Moving to Work) program. The survey of 519 residents found alarming rates of chronic diseases—such as asthma, hypertension and depression—and of daily smoking rates.
Despite 42% of respondents indicating that they either “smoke everyday” (21%) or “some days” (21%) of each week, a majority (64%) of all respondents indicated that they would either be “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” if the CHA banned smoking within all of public housing. However, of those who smoke, 61% would be “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” if the smoking ban were implemented. Based on the survey results indicating both high chronic health needs and general support for a smoking ban, our August 2015 report, Moving to Innovation: Second Interim Moving Forward Assessment, recommended that the CHA begin partnering with community-based organizations to offer smoking cessation programs along with other health-related interventions.
A smoking ban is controversial as it would limit residents’ ability to engage in a legal activity within the confines of their own home, however, the direct health and economic effects could be substantial for the residents and the CHA. Residents and their family members would benefit from reduced incidences of asthma emergencies and should experience reductions in heart disease and improvements in hypertension and diabetes. With an average price for a pack of cigarettes of $4.66, quitting smoking could also save residents money. Housing authorities also stand to gain financially from the ban—a 2014 CDC study estimated that banning smoking in public housing could save the authorities approximately $153 million annually.