In Your Home

On February 3, 2017, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) smokefree public housing rule went into effect. The rule requires Public Housing Agencies/Authorities (PHA) to adopt and implement a smokefree policy for all of their public housing properties in order to protect the health and safety of all residents, and to reduce costs and fire risk. ANR has model policy language available to assist PHAs with the implementation of a smokefree policy.

HUD's rule will reduce secondhand smoke exposure and create a healthier and safer living environment for residents by requiring all indoor areas of public housing to be smokefree, as well as within 25 feet of doors and on attached balconies and patios. PHAs provide affordable housing to low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

More than 600 PHAs in at least 44 states have already implemented smokefree policies for public housing. HUD's rule is not a brand new idea, but rather it is a continuation of an existing policy trend to expand the availability of smokefree housing for residents living in all types of multi-unit properties. HUD's decision will help ensure that the 2 million people living in public housing have the ability to breathe smokefree air at home.

In November 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced its proposed smokefree rule for PHAs, and a public comment period was open from November through January 19, 2016. The final rule was issued on November 30, 2016.

Supporting Implementation of HUD’s Smokefree Public Housing Rule

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It should come as no surprise that exposure to secondhand smoke at home is just as deadly as exposure in the workplace. Studies showing the level of nicotine in house dust and the effects of secondhand smoke exposure on children further clarify that entering smoke-filled homes should be avoided by everyone. There are several steps that can be taken to ensure that your home remains smokefree, including posting a sign on your front door to notify visitors that your home is smokefree, letting all caregivers and babysitters know that they are not to smoke in or around your home, and requesting any smokers who live in the house to smoke outdoors, away from entrances and windows.

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In February 2015, the CDC released a Vital Signs report that found nonsmokers' exposure to secondhand smoke was reduced by half between 1999-2012, yet 1 in 4 nonsmokers remain exposed. The report found striking disparities among those Americans who are still breathing secondhand smoke. More than 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke, and 2 out of every 5 children (including 7 out of 10 African American children) are exposed. Despite the tremendous progress the U.S. has made in eliminating secondhand smoke in workplaces and public places, much progress remains to be achieved in protecting everyone's right to breathe smokefree air in the workplace and in the home.

Unfortunately, many people are faced with secondhand smoke that drifts into their apartments or condominiums from other units or common areas. While there are few laws to address this situation, you can still take action. It is important to know that the owners of apartment buildings and other types of multi-unit housing do have the right to make their buildings smokefree. If you are an owner or manager of housing units, you can mitigate the problems of secondhand smoke by going smokefree. If you are suffering from drifting secondhand smoke in your unit, there are steps you can take to work with your neighbors and landlord to adopt a smokefree policy for the building.

In July 2009, the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Public & Indian Housing issued a memorandum titled Non-Smoking Policies in Public Housing, which “strongly encourages Public Housing Authorities to implement non-smoking policies in some or all of their public housing units.” In September 2010, HUD's Multi-Family Housing Section issued a notice titled Optional Smoke-Free Housing Policy Implementation to encourage owners and managers of HUD Multi-Family Housing rental assistance programs, such as Section 8, to adopt and implement smokefree policies for some or all their properties. These documents are significant developments for clarifying the right of local public housing authorities, as well as providers of Section 8, senior, and disabled affordable housing to adopt smokefree policies for the buildings under their control. HUD's support for smokefree housing is key because buildings receiving HUD funding often serve individuals and families who are among the most vulnerable to the negative health impacts of secondhand smoke exposure.

Smokefree air is the future of multi-unit housing, and there is a lot of information available for people who are interested in having a smokefree policy for the building that they live in, manage or own. See our list of local laws and communities with housing authority policies that restrict or prohibit smoking in multi-unit housing.

If you own or manage rental housing, learn more about your options.

If you live in multi-unit housing, learn more about your options.

More communities are working to expand smokefree housing options so that residents in multi-family buildings can have a cleaner, safer, smokefree living environment. If you are considering getting involved in efforts to support an increased availability of smokefree multi-family housing in your community, here are some useful resources as you get started.

Smokefree Housing Resources for
Health Departments & Advocates
Suggested Resources to Develop for Your Smokefree Housing Project (ANR)
From Policy to Implementation: Voter Perceptions of New Smokefree Housing Policies
American Lung Association in California - The Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing