A study released in early October by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes a strong case for prohibiting smoking in all government-subsidized housing.
Not only could it help save lives—secondhand smoke kills more than 40,000 Americans a year and causes health problems for both adults and children—but it also could save millions of dollars per year.
The study, which was published in Preventing Chronic Disease, is the first of its kind to estimate the annual cost savings of going smoke-free in subsidized housing in every state.
Residents who live in multi-unit housing have increased potential for secondhand smoke because it can spread through ventilation systems and windows, seeping into units occupied by nonsmoking residents. In the United States, nearly 80,000 million people live in multi-unit housing. That includes approximately 7 million people who live in multi-unit, government-subsidized housing, with nearly 2 million of them residing in public housing.
The study shows that prohibiting smoking in all government-subsidized housing would save an estimated $497 million per year in health care and related housing costs. The breakdown estimates savings of:
- $310 million in secondhand smoke-related health care;
- $134 million in renovation expenses; and
- $53 million in smoking-attributable fire losses
Banning smoking in public housing would save an estimated $153 million annually in health care and related housing costs. The breakdown estimates savings of:
- $94 million in secondhand smoke-related health care;
- $43 million in renovation expenses; and
- $16 million in smoking-related fire losses
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has made a push to educate owners and resident about the benefits of going smoke-free and has created a toolkit to assist owners and managers of federally subsidized housing. More than 500 public housing agencies have already adopted some form of a smoke-free policy, which is protecting approximately 200,000 families from secondhand smoke in their homes.