The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Thursday a plan to ban smoking in public housing across the country. The goal behind the ban, which would be implemented over 18 months in more than 1 million housing units, is to reduce incidents of secondhand smoke, as well as minimize fire risk and maintenance costs associated with smoking indoors.
The benefits of the ban are pretty straightforward and since the federal government began pushing to bar smoking in public housing, the New York Times notes, more than 600 pubic housing agencies covering some 200,000 households—about 20 percent of federally subsidized housing in the U.S.—have voluntarily banned lighting up indoors. The worry, however, is that a blanket ban “gives the government yet another reason to harass or even evict poor people for doing what would otherwise be a legal activity in the privacy of their own homes,” according to the Associated Press. Officials say, however, there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke making eliminating secondhand smoke altogether the only option.
The no-smoking policy would ultimately be incorporated into individuals' lease agreements and would be enforced by complaints from other residents, a HUD spokesman said Thursday. “The proposed rule would require housing agencies to prohibit lit cigarettes, cigars and pipes in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings,” according to the Times.