- Prohibiting smoking in public housing would result in health care and building-related cost savings.
- Public-housing managers report concerns about increasing vacancy rates, the legality of instituting smoke-free policies and cost of enforcement as reasons for not establishing smoke-free policies.
Establishing smoke-free policies for public housing would help protect residents, visitors and employees from the harmful effects of smoking and result in significant cost savings, reports a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Despite this, the study’s lead author, Brian A. King, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health said, “Smoke-free prevalence in U.S. subsidized housing remains low. That’s because some multi-unit housing operators have concerns about vacancy, the legality of such polices and increased staff time for enforcement. But the experiences of multi-unit operators with smoke-free policies suggest these misconceptions are unfounded.”
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke is a major cause of disease including lung cancer and heart disease in non-smokers who are otherwise healthy.
Even though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development encourages public housing authorities, owners and managers to adopt smoke-free policies in subsidized housing, implementation and enforcement in all states is a slow process.
The CDC study estimates cost savings of $341 million in second-hand smoke related health care expenditures, $108 million in renovation expenses, and $72 million in smoking-related fire losses.
Between 2009 and 2010, 7.1 million people lived in subsidized housing and 2.1 million lived in public housing owned or operated by a government housing authority. In January 2012, there were approximately 3,500 Public Housing Authorities in the U.S., but only 250 had instituted smoke-free policies.
Michael C. Fiore, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin noted, “This is an important study because decisions made on policy levels may not translate to the appropriate standard of care for low income people and those who live in subsidized housing. The article provides a powerful message. Everyone deserves to be healthy and those who live in subsidized housing shouldn’t be penalized.”
Fiore explained, “Over the past two decades science has made a compelling case that second-hand smoke is not an inconvenience but is harmful, and in some cases, deadly. Up to 50,000 people in the U.S. die of second-hand smoke each year.”
King added smoke-free policies do not prohibit smokers from residing at a property. They simply prevent smokers from smoking in settings where secondhand smoke can affect others.
“Among the large number of people living in subsidized housing in the U.S, many are children, the elderly and disabled,” he said. “These people are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke exposure.”
For More Information:
Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at (202) 387-2829 or [email protected]
American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Contact the editorial office at (858) 534-9340 or [email protected].
Brian A. King, PhD, MPH, Richard M. Peck, PhD, Stephen D. Babb, MPH (2013). Cost-Savings Associated with Prohibiting Smoking in U.S. Subsidized Housing, American Journal of Preventive Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2013.01.024