Forum on Smoking Ban in Public Housing

On January 6, the White House hosted a convening on HUD’s proposed smoke-free public housing rule (see Memo, 11/16/15). HUD Secretary Julián Castro and United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy spoke about the dangers of secondhand smoke, the benefits of smoke-free housing policies, and the steps needed to implement such a rule.

HUD announced the proposed ban on November 12, 2015, saying it required more than 3,100 public housing agencies (PHAs) across the country to implement smoke-free policies in their developments within 18 months of the final rule. HUD will continue to receive public comments and feedback until January 19.

The proposed ban would make it illegal to smoke in public housing properties. Violation of the rule could lead to punitive actions, including eviction. Special smoking-zones for residents, located at least 25 feet from the housing and administrative office buildings, could be created.

Julie Rodriguez, Deputy Director for the White House Office at Public Engagement, moderated a Q&A session with the HUD Secretary and the Surgeon General to discuss the proposed rule. Secretary Castro said that access to clean and fresh air is a right, not a luxury, to which everyone should have access. Dr. Murthy said the ban on smoking at public housing was about giving everyone a chance for good health.

Lourdes Castro Ramirez, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, moderated a stakeholder panel whose members panel agreed that the proposed ban was a laudable effort given the documented dangers of second hand smoke. However, some expressed concerns about how the rule would be implemented. Several public health related organizations, including the American Lung Association, were represented and offered numerous smoking cessation resources.

Breakout sessions covered working with residents, policy development and implementation, costs and benefits of implementation, and role of smoking cessation services. NLIHC board members Michael Steele, Martha Weatherspoon, and Delorise Calhoun, as well as NLIHC members Katrice Cheaton and Donald Sherman, represented public housing residents at the convening and offered their perspectives.

Read HUD’s proposed rule on smoking at