By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

news housing

Smoking will be prohibited in public housing properties to reduce secondhand smoke exposure, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD announced Wednesday that public housing agencies must implement a smoke-free policy that bans the use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookah in public housing living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices, and outdoor areas within 25 feet of the buildings. Public housing agencies have 18 months to implement the rule, which means it must be in effect by Fall 2018.

There are exceptions for units in certain types of buildings.

The regulation impacts 2 million public housing residents in HUD’s 940,000 units and it is expected to save $153 million annually based on such changes as fewer repair costs due to smoking. More than 600 of the nation’s 3,100 public housing agencies already prohibit indoor smoking.

The new rule is a “lifesaver,” especially for low-income and elderly individuals who are particularly vulnerable to tobacco smoke, said American Heart Association Chief Executive Nancy Brown.

Unfortunately, electronic cigarettes are exempted from the regulation, Brown said, calling that “a disappointment since e-cigarettes can expose users to harmful chemicals and should be included in every smoke free policy.”

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, echoed Brown’s concern, but said that individual housing authorities are permitted to include e-cigarettes in their policies.

Cigarette smoke is harmful to children’s long-term heart health and may shorten life expectancy, said Geetha Raghuveer, M.D., M.P.H., pediatric cardiologist and chair of an AHA expert panel that wrote a statement on secondhand smoke in September.

“Smoking is bad for [parents] and for the kids around them,” Raghuveer said. “It’s bad, period.”