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Leading Medical and Health Groups Applaud HUD’s Plan to Make Multi-Unit Housing Smokefree

New rule will protect two million Americans living in public housing from the harms of secondhand smoke

(November 30, 2016) - WASHINGTON, D.C.

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Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

The American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) applaud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its plan, announced today, requiring all public housing agencies to implement smokefree policies. This rule will protect two million Americans from being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, including 760,000 children and more than 300,000 adults over the age of 62. The policies apply to residential units as well as common areas.

"The American Lung Association welcomes this life-saving announcement by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect the more than two million Americans living in public housing from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. We are committed to working with housing authorities and their residents across the country to implement smokefree housing and to help smokers who want to quit do so," said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "Everyone, and especially our nation's most vulnerable citizens—children, the elderly and low-income Americans—deserves protection from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke at home and where they live, work and play."

The U.S. Surgeon General has stated there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. More than 41,000 deaths per year are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. 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.

"Before today, parents living in public housing units could not protect their children from the secondhand smoke that seeped through walls and shared ventilation systems. Before today, simply living in a building without smokefree policies put children at risk for asthma flare-ups, trouble breathing and severe long-term health issues. Children of color and children living in public housing were at disproportionately higher risk for exposure," said AAP President Benard P. Dreyer, M.D., FAAP. "HUD's long-awaited action to make all public housing smokefree will address this injustice and public health threat, and most importantly, protect children and their families. The AAP commends the agency for its leadership."

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 outlets, plumbing and ventilation systems. 

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. A study of smokefree public housing in Colorado published in Preventing Chronic Disease found the new policy was associated with lung health benefits, including a significant reduction in breathing problems such as asthma attacks. 

While this is an important step, the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are disappointed that the final rule does not extend to all federally subsidized housing.  As a result, millions of Americans will not benefit from these new protections and we urge President-elect Donald J. Trump to extend this rule to protect all vulnerable Americans.  In addition, our organizations had also urged HUD to include e-cigarettes, which have been shown to contain carcinogens and harmful toxins and chemicals. While HUD unfortunately did not include these tobacco products, individual housing authorities are permitted to include e-cigarettes in their final smokefree policies.

The AAP and the American Lung Association will continue their leadership to advocate to make all federally subsidized housing smokefree, including privately owned buildings. Smokefree policies should also extend to aerosol from e-cigarettes. In January 2016, the organizations issued comments on behalf of dozens of organizations urging HUD to require smokefree policies that extend to all government-subsidized housing.

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, fact sheets and policy briefs, which can be found at

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 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:

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