No smoking in public housing? New federal smoke-free rule affects Minnesotans
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a rule today requiring all public housing agencies to have a smoke-free policy within 18 months to protect residents, staff, and visitors from secondhand smoke, reduce fire risk and maintenance costs and provide cleaner and safer air.
These policies will create smoke-free spaces in living units, indoor common areas and public housing agency offices.
Minnesota is well positioned to offer smoke-free living to all public housing residents. Most of Minnesota's public housing agencies already have some smoking restrictions for their buildings or grounds. Through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), local public health agencies are working across Minnesota to help public housing authorities set smoke-free policies and connect residents who want to quit smoking with cessation programs.
"This change will help protect some of the most vulnerable people in our state — children and older adults — and will encourage more people to quit smoking," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger.
The Minnesota Department of Health and local public health departments will work with their community partners as their public housing authorities implement the rule to expand smoke-free benefits to all residents. Resources available to public housing managers include one-on-one help, sample materials such as resident notification letters and policy language, signage and quit-smoking materials for residents.
"Public housing is finally catching up to private housing in terms of smoke-free protections. Many residents living in private housing have enjoyed the benefits of smoke-free living for years," said Mary Boler, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) managing director of low-income public housing. "Minneapolis Public Housing residents have already experienced the benefits of living in a smoke-free environment thanks to the MPHA policy passed in recent years in advance of the federal rule."
Property managers and directors can learn more about HUD's new rule and get resources at Tobacco Prevention and Control.
Minnesota residents who want to quit smoking have free access to quit-smoking tools and resources through QUITPLAN® Services.
Young children and older adults are most susceptible to the harms of secondhand smoke, including increased risk of breathing problems and more frequent and severe asthma attacks.
Secondhand smoke causes early death and disease in both children and adults who do not smoke. There is no safe level of exposure. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, about 70 of which are known to cause cancer. People in low- and fixed-income groups have a greater risk of secondhand smoke exposure in their homes than those in higher income groups.
While Minnesota banned smoking in nearly all indoor public spaces in 2007 with the Freedom to Breathe changes to the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, these provisions did not include smoking in individual or multi-unit housing. Minnesota's tobacco prevention community has been actively working to bring cleaner, safer air to all Minnesotans living in multi-unit housing.