Monday, April 3, 2017

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Bans Smoking in Public Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has implemented new rules mandating smoke-free policies in all public housing by July 30, 2018. The rule covers 3,100 public housing authorities nationwide, including 47 in Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been working with public housing authorities and local public health agencies for the past 10 years to reduce the health effects of residents’ exposure to secondhand smoke. Already, 22 of the state’s 47 public housing authorities have implemented smoke-free policies. The health department will continue to support HUD’s smoke-free regulations. In Jefferson County, eight public housing facilities have already adopted smoke-free policies, largely thanks to the collaboration between the Jefferson County Public Health Tobacco Prevention Initiative, Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance and the Jefferson County Housing Authority. The Housing Authority was recognized as a 2016 Public Health Champion for its efforts.

Left to right: Leslie Ross, Jefferson County Commissioner Lizzy Szabo, Jefferson County Commissioner Don Rosier, Henry Wehrdt and Jefferson County Commissioner Casey Tighe stand at the Public Health Champions Luncheon March 30 to recognize Ross and Wehrdt's work in tobacco prevention.
Every Coloradan deserves to live in a smoke-free environment,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, health department executive director and the state’s chief medical officer. “This new rule will help protect those living in public housing from the dangerous health effects of secondhand smoke.”

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. It can travel through ventilation systems and around doors, windows and even walls, affecting the health of families living in multi-unit housing complexes. Research shows secondhand smoke increases the risk for heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory problems.

Colorado study found smoke-free policies in multifamily housing reduced secondhand smoke exposure and associated health problems. Such policies also have been shown to decrease the number of cigarettes smoked per day while increasing the number of smokers who quit.

HUD’s rule prohibits smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes in all living units, indoor common areas, offices and outdoor areas within 25 feet of public housing authority buildings. It does not cover privately funded housing developments and does not restrict electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes.

The rule allows public housing authorities to implement additional smoking restrictions such as property-wide smoking bans, designated smoking areas, banning e-cigarettes, or creating buffers around playgrounds and other outdoor areas.

The state health department provides funding, resources and technical support to local public health agencies and other grantees working to reduce secondhand smoke exposure in multifamily housing.

All Boulder County housing authorities are smoke-free. The Delta County Health Department used state funding to help the Delta Housing Authority expand its smoke- and tobacco-free policy to cover 171 units. At the tight properties where the Jefferson County Housing Authority implemented smoke- and vapor-free policies, approximately 1,200 low-income residents in 607 apartments are now protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.

While some residents resist smoke-free policies, most applaud them. The Jefferson County Housing Authority has received praise for protecting residents with asthma, non-smokers with other health issues and even pets.

“I have been hearing from residents who say that smoking outside has helped them cut back and even think about quitting,” said Leslie Ross, housing program specialist for the Jefferson County Housing Authority. “And their neighbors are happy because they don’t smell the smoke in their units anymore.”
Smoking remains the number one cause of death and disease in Colorado, killing more than 5,000 Coloradans each year. About one in six Colorado adults use tobacco, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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