HUD Official Reaffirms Commitment to Smoke-Free Public Housing Rule

Jon Gant, HUD’s Director of the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, recently reaffirmed HUD’s commitment to its smoke-free housing rule in public housing, which is due to take effect later this year.

As Gant explained in a recent post on HUD’s blog, the HUDdle, the new rule requires every public housing agency (PHA) in the United States to ensure their residents can live in a smoke-free environment. This rule can help protect more than 910,000 households living in public housing, including more than 760,000 children and 500,000 elderly Americans, he said.

The dangers of smoking are well documented. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, smoking kills approximately 480,000 people each year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also estimates that smoking inflicts nearly $153 million in annual damages upon PHAs in the form of healthcare costs, annual repairs to units where smoking has occurred, and preventable fires.

Now, a pioneering study from experts at HUD and the CDC paints an even clearer picture on the harmful health effects that smoking causes for people who live in public housing, he said.

The study is the first to examine the prevalence and negative impact of cigarette smoking among adult residents of public housing. Some key findings:

  • One-third of adults living in public housing surveyed between 2006 and 2012 identified themselves as cigarette smokers—approximately double the rate of smoking among all adults in the United States;
  • Among adult residents in public housing, smokers were more likely than nonsmokers to suffer from conditions such as chronic lung disease, asthma, physical disabilities, and serious psychological distress; and
  • Adult smokers in public housing were more likely than nonsmokers to visit the emergency room and to miss time from work.

Fortunately, Gant said, the study highlights the opportunity for HUD and its partners to play an important role in addressing these challenges.

More than half of the HUD-assisted smokers who were surveyed expressed an interest in kicking their addiction. And the paper notes that housing assistance programs can act as a crucial platform for improving quality of life for residents by connecting them with resources for quitting smoking, and by introducing steps that protect children and other vulnerable Americans from exposure to secondhand smoke.

This study is a powerful reminder of why efforts like our smoke-free housing rule are so important, said Gant. HUD is committed to working with PHAs and public health professionals across the nation to give every resident of public housing the chance to live in a home that’s safe from the dangers of tobacco smoke. And in the years ahead, HUD will keep striving to help improve the health and wellbeing of every person we serve—one family, one neighborhood, and one community at a time.

The paper, “Cigarette smoking and adverse health outcomes among adults receiving federal housing assistance,” is available for free online at:

Editor’s Note: Last month, Fair Housing Coach hosted a webinar highlighting HUD’s smoke-free public housing rule and its implications for both conventional and assisted housing communities. While the benefits of going smoke-free—from improving resident and employee health to saving on maintenance costs—may be clear, implementing and enforcing a ban may trigger legal challenges under fair housing law. At the webinar, Speaker Lynn N. Dover offered suggestions for preventing potential fair housing problems with respect to smoking policies and cover issues relating to residents’ use of medical marijuana in those states that have approved its use. A recording of the webinar, “Ensuring Fair Housing Compliance When Adopting a Smoke-Free Policy,” is available on demand here.