Leading Medical and Health Groups… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

Leading Medical and Health Groups Urge HUD to Quickly Finalize Rule Making Public Housing Smoke-free

January 19, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 19, 2016) –The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids submitted joint comments today along with 32 other health and medical organizations to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The comments are in response to HUD’s proposal to require all public housing agencies to be smoke-free in all residential units and common areas. When finalized, the rule will protect two million Americans from being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, including 760,000 children and more than 300,000 adults over the age of 62.

“There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure for children. HUD’s long-awaited action to make public housing smoke-free is a welcome step forward not only to ensure that children will be able to live and breathe safely in their homes, but also to protect low-income families who have no control over the air they breathe in through shared walls and ventilation systems,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Benard Dreyer, MD, FAAP. “Pediatricians commend HUD for protecting the health of vulnerable children and families and continue to advocate for smoke-free environments everywhere children live, learn and play.”

“The American Lung Association urges HUD to quickly finalize this life-saving regulation so that residents living in public housing can be protected from secondhand smoke,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “No one should be exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, especially our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including children, the elderly and low-income Americans.”

In the joint comments, the groups commend HUD for taking the step to make public housing agencies smoke-free, and urge the agency to adopt a final rule implementing this measure as soon as possible that will:

  • Include e-cigarettes and hookah in smoke-free policies;
  • Prevent current residents from continuing to smoke indoors;
  • Include playgrounds; and
  • Apply to all federally supported housing, not just public housing

The U.S. Surgeon General has stated there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), secondhand smoke migrates from other units and common areas and travels through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines and plumbing and ventilation systems.

“Clearing the air in public housing will eliminate exposure to the cancer-causing toxins found in secondhand smoke and create an environment that encourages smokers to quit,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. “Tobacco use is responsible for roughly one third of all cancer deaths. This proposed rule, along with ensuring access to cessation services and other critical tobacco control measures, will improve public health and save lives.”

“Breathing clean indoor air will greatly improve the cardiovascular health of public housing residents. HUD’s proposed rule ensures that these Americans will no longer be involuntarily exposed to the secondhand smoke which increases their risk for heart disease and stroke,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “We encourage HUD to move forward with this regulation as soon as possible, and work to bring all federally supported housing under similar policies.”

“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports adoption of the proposed rule, which will protect our nation’s most vulnerable children and families from harmful secondhand smoke,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This proposal will also discourage smoking among groups that have high rates of smoking and suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related death and disease. This bold step can accelerate our nation’s progress in reducing smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, especially among Americans who are most at risk.”

Secondhand smoke can cause or make worse a wide range of damaging health effects in children and adults, including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma. Asthma disproportionately impacts low-income residents living in federally subsidized housing and exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger asthma exacerbations. Children with asthma are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke, and may suffer from more asthma attacks and more and longer hospitalizations as a result.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will continue to advocate to make all federally subsidized housing smoke-free, including in privately owned buildings. The organizations stand ready to assist in the implementation of smoke-free public housing and will continue to advocate for policies to ensure that all smokers have access to proven cessation services to help them quit.