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New Study Finds Smoking Rate Twice as High for Adults in Federally Assisted Housing, Highlighting Importance of Smoke-Free Public Housing Rule

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 02, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One-third (33.6 percent) of adults living in federally assisted housing smoke, which is nearly double the smoking rate of the general adult population, according to a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine. Compared to non-smokers, these smokers were more likely to report poorer overall health and adverse health outcomes such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, more than one emergency room visit in the past year and at least 10 days of missed work in the past year, the study found. Just over half (51.4 percent) of current smokers in federally assisted housing had children age 17 or younger in the household.

The new study, conducted by an interagency team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is the first to describe the demographic and health characteristics of HUD-assisted cigarette smokers and non-smokers. In addition to the above findings,

These findings underscore the importance of HUD’s new rule to make public housing properties entirely smoke-free. This rule is necessary both to protect the two-thirds of public housing residents who do not smoke from harmful secondhand smoke and to encourage smokers to quit. The HUD rule, which took effect February 3, gives public housing agencies 18 months to implement smoke-free policies that apply to all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings. According to HUD, this new rule will protect the health and safety of more than two million public housing residents, including 760,000 children. It is also sound fiscal policy that HUD estimates will save public housing agencies $153 million a year in health care costs, repairs and preventable fires.

When HUD issued its rule in November 2016, it reported that more than 228,000 public housing units were already smoke-free, demonstrating that these policies can be effectively implemented. The new rule will expand the impact to more than 940,000 units.

The new study also highlights the need to provide smoking cessation treatments and support to smokers living in assisted housing. It found that about half (50.4 percent) of smokers receiving HUD assistance had tried to quit in the past year.

The study assessed smoking-related behaviors and health outcomes among U.S. adults who received federal housing assistance from 2006-2012. It is based on data from the National Health Interview Survey linked with HUD administrative data to identify HUD-assisted adults.