HUD Proposes to Protect More than One Million Americans Living in Multi-Unit Housing from Harms of Secondhand Smoke
Today’s announcement is an important step forward toward making all public housing agencies smokefree
(November 12, 2015) - Washington, D.C.
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The American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) applaud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its proposal to require all public housing agencies to implement smokefree policies for all residential units and common areas. When finalized, this rule will protect more than one million Americans from being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, including 760,000 children and over 300,000 adults over the age of 62.
"The American Lung Association welcomes HUD's life-saving announcement to protect residents living in public housing from secondhand smoke," said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "No one should be exposed to secondhand smoke in their home, especially our nation's most vulnerable citizens, including children, the elderly and low-income Americans."
The U.S. Surgeon General has stated there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), secondhand smoke migrates from other units and common areas and travels through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines and plumbing and ventilation systems.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard, causing more than 41,000 deaths per year. Secondhand smoke can cause or make worse a wide range of damaging health effects in children and adults, including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma. Asthma disproportionately impacts low-income residents living in federally subsidized housing and exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger asthma exacerbations. Children with asthma are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke, and may suffer from more asthma attacks and more and longer hospitalizations as a result.
A February 2015 CDC study found that two in five children living in federally subsidized housing overall are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even more troubling is that seven in ten African-American children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Children who breathe secondhand smoke can have more ear infections, coughs and colds, tooth decay, headaches, sore throat, eye irritation, hoarseness and respiratory problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
"There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure for children. Every child deserves to have a healthy environment. Before today, children living in certain environments without smokefree policies had no choice in their exposure to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. That has started to change with HUD's long-awaited action to make all public housing smokefree," said AAP President Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP. "The AAP commends HUD for protecting the health of vulnerable children and families and continues to advocate for smokefree environments everywhere children live, learn and play."
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Lung Association will continue their leadership to advocate to make all federally subsidized housing smokefree, including in privately owned buildings. Smokefree policies should also extend to aerosol from e-cigarettes. The organizations have submitted letters and issued comments urging HUD to require smokefree policies in all government-subsidized housing, too.
More than 600 housing authorities have already gone smokefree, protecting their residents and reducing the risk of fires and costs to property owners. The Lung Association continues to assist housing authorities, property owners and residents who are acting voluntarily to make their public housing smokefree, and has also created resources to assist property owners and residents, including an online course and materials such as fact sheets and policy briefs, which can be found at Lung.org/smokefreehousing.
The AAP Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence provides education, training, and tools needed to effectively intervene to protect children from the harmful effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke. The Richmond Center has facts and resources about smokefree housing that can be found online as well as comprehensive advocacy and public policy tools on topics like secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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