WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- A proposed rule to make U.S. public housing smoke-free could affect nearly 1 million households and require more than 3,100 housing agencies to enforce smoking bans.
Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy announced the proposal Thursday in Alexandria, Va. It calls for a ban on lit tobacco products in and around all public housing residences.
"We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially the elderly and children who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases. This proposed rule will help improve the health of more than 760,000 children and help public housing agencies save $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires," Castro said in a statement.
Despite the intentions, already overburdened public housing agencies could be faced with the additional task of monitoring smoking activity. Some residents could interpret the law as an assault on control of what is allowed in their homes.
HUD has encouraged locally responsible public housing authorities to establish smoke-free policies since 2009, and more than 228,000 units, of 1.2 million across the country are smoke-free, but the announcement Thursday is of a nationwide, federally enforced law. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days.
"It's a fraught process, because to do it properly you need community buy-in," Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, told the Times. "To do this successfully, it can't be a top-down edict, because you want people to comply with the policy."