R Street Institute statement on HUD plan to make all public housing smoke-free
HUD is to be commended for the work they have done this past decade to pave the way for smoke-free public housing nationwide. Their process of working with and through local housing management and with smokers to enable them either to quit or simply not to smoke in or around housing units also deserves commendation. This is not the heavy hand of government telling people how to live their lives. This is common courtesy and a major victory for the health of both smokers and other residents, and the cleanliness of the housing complex. People already are accustomed to smoking prohibitions in workplaces, bars, restaurants, shops and even in some stadiums and other outside venues.
We have now reached the point in the United States where less than 25 percent of adults smoke, and less than half of them smoke daily. In recent years, many who otherwise would have been unable or unwilling to quit have found they can cease or reduce their intake of cigarettes by switching to nicotine products that are vastly safer, such as smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. Importantly, the new HUD rules do not bar such products, which will be a help to those trying to break the habit.
Even with such a small number of smokers, smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, with millions suffering from smoking-related or smoking-aggravated heart and lung disease and multiple types of cancer. Given the ready availability of snus (no-spit smokeless tobacco), e-cigarette-like vapor products now good enough to satisfy the urge to smoke for most smokers, at far less cost than cigarettes; as well as gums, patches, and other products – there is simply no reason for anyone to be exposed to the carbon monoxide, tar and thousands of toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke.
Public housing units are of special concern because of the number of infants, asthmatic children, pregnant women, and chronically ill and elderly residents – all of whom are especially sensitive to the toxins in tobacco smoke. Employers, shopkeepers and others have had remarkably little difficulty in making and keeping their facilities smoke-free. Public housing units, and all other multiple dwelling unit structures should offer the same to all who live, work and visit their properties.