Smoke-free housing for everyone

We were excited to hear the news that HUD proposes to restrict smoking in all public housing. As you may already know, the Northland became a leader in the smoke-free housing movement. In fact, 66 percent of the public housing units in our state are already smoke-free as compared to only 20 percent in the rest of the country. For those of us working at the American Lung Association in Minnesota and our Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) partners across the region, this news comes as a sign that our work to promote healthier living is making a difference both locally and nationally.

This HUD rule is sure to succeed when the managers talk about the cost savings; doctors talk about the health benefits; residents talk about the quality of life in a smoke-free environment; and firefighters talk about safety issues.

We couldn’t agree more with Federal Housing Secretary Julian Castro who said, “The argument about second-hand smoke is over. It’s harmful, and we believe it’s important that we have an environment that’s healthy in public housing.”

At the American Lung Association in Minnesota we field calls every day from residents in both subsidized housing and market rate housing who suffer from diseases like COPD and asthma that make even small amounts of second-hand smoke uncomfortable and, in some cases, debilitating. Just the other day, a woman in Duluth called to say she was at her wits’ end with neighbors who were smoking in their apartment. The ventilation system in her building brought the smoke into her home and she became so ill that was hospitalized. She said, “I am leaving town for the holiday and I don’t even want to come back home.”

Understandable. Unacceptable.

Most smokers understand the impact of their habit and most really do want to quit. The few remaining smokers who protest that their rights are being infringed upon need to understand that they do not have to quit smoking, they need to smoke where they are not putting others, especially elders and children, at risk.

We are hopeful that even more landlords and managers of market rate and other affordable housing units will follow HUD’s lead by declaring their properties smoke-free. Anyone interested in learning more can reach out to the American Lung Association. Resources include: smoke-free signage, presentations to residents, information and guidance on how to create a smoke-free policy, and many other resources to help folks interested in living smoke-free. For more information, visit www.lung.org.

Pat McKone
Senior Regional Director
American Lung Association
of the Upper Midwest

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