Proposed smoking ban in public housing could improve health of millions

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A proposal from the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development to make all of the nation’s public housing smoke-free represents a “an unparalleled opportunity” to improve the health of millions of low-income individuals, according to an article co-authored by experts at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston University.

In a February 15, 2016 viewpoint article in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), authors Alan Geller and Vaughan Rees of Harvard Chan School’s Center for Global Tobacco Control, along with Boston University’s Daniel Brooks, noted that public housing residents are at particular risk from secondhand smoke from tobacco, which is known to cause serious health problems, particularly in children. Not only are smoking rates higher among those living in poverty—many of whom live in public housing—but even nonsmokers can suffer health effects because secondhand smoke travels into their homes through ventilation ducts and other airborne pathways in multi-unit housing.

Federal officials and public housing authorities should involve public housing residents in implementation of the proposed smoking ban, implement it fairly and with sensitivity, and make sure that residents have access to smoking cessation programs if they want to quit, the authors wrote.

Although public housing residents have voiced concern about government intrusion into private behavior in their homes, recent evidence suggests that most public housing residents support a smoking ban, the authors wrote.