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Letter: HUD implements new smoke-free policy

By Luke Ewald, Community Wellness Partners, Cottonwood, Jackson and Nobles counties

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is requiring that all units and common indoor areas in public housing be smoke-free within 18 months. This new policy was adopted on Feb. 3 and applies to all indoor areas of public housing, including but not limited to living units, indoor common areas, electrical closets, storage units, and PHA administrative office buildings, and in all outdoor areas within 25 feet of the housing and administrative office buildings.

Once the HUD Rule is fully implemented, the smoke-free rule impact more than 940,000 public housing units, including greater than 500,000 units inhabited by elderly residents, and 760,000 youths living in public housing.

The purpose of this rule is to help protect individuals living in publicly-owned housing across Minnesota and the U.S. from secondhand smoke exposure. Not only will individuals living in these units be protected from secondhand smoke exposure, indoor air quality is expected to improve; benefit the health of public housing residents, visitors and Public Housing Authority staff; reduce the risk of catastrophic fires; and lower overall maintenance costs.

Apartment owners, managers and all HUD operators should look at making their own apartments smoke-free to follow the same pursuit that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development is doing to help prevent and reduce the 7,300 deaths from lung cancer and 34,000 deaths from heart disease annually in the U.S. and save an estimated $15,000 in maintenance costs to clean an apartment unit that houses a smoker.