Federal Government Considers Smoking Ban For All Public Housing Residents

In this Saturday, March 2, 2013 file photo, a woman smokes a cigarette while sitting in her truck in Hayneville, Ala. Anti-smoking measures have saved roughly 8 million U.S. lives since a landmark 1964 report linking smoking and disease, a study estimates, yet the nation's top disease detective says dozens of other countries have surpassed U.S. efforts to stop many tobacco-related harms. The study and comments were published online Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This week’s journal commemorates the 50th anniversary of the surgeon general report credited with raising alarms about the dangers of smoking. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

(AP/Dave Martin)

Millions of Americans could be banned from smoking in their own homes under controversial legislation proposed by the federal government.

The legislation would require homes, communal areas and administrative offices on public housing land to be smoke-free, the New York Times reports.

It is thought the changes would affect around a million homes.

It has argued the ban is necessary to protect residents from second-hand smoke, to lower building maintenance costs, and to reduce the risk of fires.

But the proposal has already met with resistance from some residents who believe it would be an infringement of their right to make personal choices about their lives.

One told the newspaper: “What I do in my apartment should be my problem long as I pay my rent.”

Many of the country’s public housing agencies, which provide subsidised housing for people on low-incomes, have already voluntarily enforced the ban since calls for the move surfaced in 2009.

Those living in New York City Housing Authority homes – more than 400,000 people – are expected to be among those most severely affected by a ban.

Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, told the New York Times: “It’s a fraught process because to do it properly you need community buy-in.  To do this successfully it can’t be a top-down edict because you want people to comply with the policy.”

The council said smoking bans have become more popular over time and that, as the number of smoking tenants has dropped, more people have come to expect smoke-free spaces.

“This is a health equity issue,” Patrick Kwan, director of NYC Smoke-Free, added.

“For people living in public housing and are subjected to second-hand smoke, the only option is to be at the mercy of their neighbours who smoke in their homes.

“People who can afford it choose a smoke-free unit.  Smoke-free housing shouldn’t only be for the wealthy and privileged.”

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