A new rule by the Department of Housing and Urban Development bans smoking in all public housing in the U.S. beginning in early 2017, affecting more than a million residences throughout the country.
Although the rule will go into effect in the early months of 2017, public housing agencies will have up to 18 months to put policies in place. About 200,000 public housing residences already have smoking bans in effect that were implemented voluntarily by local public housing agencies, according to the New York Times.
The rule covers cigaretes, cigars, pipes, and hookahs (water pipes), but does not include electronic cigarettes.
Smoking will not be allowed in any living units, common areas, offices, and within 25 feet of housing and office buildings outdoors. Enforcement will include warnings and fines as well as education, counseling, and help with quitting, such as nicotine patches.
“We don’t see this as a policy that is meant to end in a whole lot of evictions,” HUD secretary Julian Castro told reporters, including the Times. “We’re confident that public-housing authority staff can work with residents so that that can be avoided.”
The move is meant to protect nonsmokers, including 760,000 children living in public housing, from being exposed to secondhand smoke, which can occur through walls and ventilation systems in apartment buildings.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Government will save $153 million each year in damage, prevented fires, and healthcare costs.
“Protecting people from secondhand smoke saves lives and saves money,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said, The Associated Press reported. “No level of secondhand smoke exposure is safe.”
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