-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking bans in subsidized
housing, including public housing and rental assistance programs,
would save $521 million a year, according to new U.S. government
The authors of the study, from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), estimated that cuts in health care
costs related to secondhand smoke would account for the bulk of the
savings, or $341 million annually. They pointed out that smoke-free
policies are particularly important in multi-unit housing, where
exposure to secondhand smoke can be particularly harmful.
"Many of the more than 7 million Americans living in subsidized housing in the United States are children, the elderly or disabled," Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in a CDC news release. "These are people who are most sensitive to being exposed to secondhand smoke. This report shows that there are substantial financial benefits to implementing smoke-free policies, in addition to the health benefits those policies bring."
The national president and CEO of the American Lung Association,
Harold Wimmer, endorsed the report.
"This study confirms that a smoke-free policy in all subsidized housing, in conjunction with comprehensive quit-smoking health benefits, would drastically improve public health and save the nation millions of dollars in the process," Wimmer said in an American Lung Association statement.
"Evidence shows that residents of multi-family housing are exposed to secondhand smoke even if they live in a unit where no one smokes," Wimmer added. "Nearly 63 million of the 79 million Americans who live in multi-family housing do not allow smoking in their homes, but approximately 28 million of them reported that secondhand smoke still infiltrated their homes, according to a recent study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research," he said.
Approximately 50,000 people in the United States die each year
from exposure to secondhand smoke. A 2006 report from the Surgeon
General warned there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand
smoke and concluded that the only way to protect people from the
harmful effects of secondhand smoke is to implement 100 percent
smoke-free indoor policies.
For public housing alone, the CDC estimated the total annual
savings associated with smoke-free policies would be roughly $154
million a year. Of that amount, $101 million would come from
reduction in health care costs linked to secondhand smoke, $32
million from renovations, and $21 million from fire damage related
The study authors said exposure to secondhand smoke can be
particularly dangerous for people living in multi-unit housing.
"Secondhand smoke enters nearby apartments from common areas and apartments where smoking is occurring," study lead author, Brian King, an epidemiologist with CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, explained in the CDC news release.
"Opening windows and installing ventilation systems will not fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Implementing smoke-free policies in all areas is the most effective way to fully protect all residents, visitors, and employees from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke," King said.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has
urged public housing authorities as well as the owners and managers
of multi-family housing rental assistance programs to prohibit
smoking in their properties. To date, however, only a small
percentage of public housing authorities have implemented such
Back in January, the American Lung Association, American Academy
of Pediatrics and 17 other medical and public health organizations
requested that HUD adopt a smoke-free policy covering all
multi-family housing under its control, according to Wimmer.
Sandra Henriquez, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Public and
Indian Housing, noted that "this new study reinforces the
importance of the Housing and Urban Development initiative to
promote the adoption of smoke-free housing policies in public
housing and other federally assisted multi-family housing."
She said in the news release: "We have seen considerable
momentum in the number of public housing agencies across the
country adopting this policy, which saves health and housing costs,
in places like Boston, San Antonio, Seattle, and all public housing
in the state of Maine."
Informing both residents and the owners and operators of
subsidized housing on the health and financial benefits of
smoke-free policies could protect more people from the negative
effects of secondhand smoke, according to the CDC. The researchers
added that providing the people living in subsidized housing with
information and resources on quitting smoking could also help.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
more information on
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