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Puffing in public housing poses serious health risks to tenants
Date:6/17/2010

In an effort to protect children from harmful tobacco smoke exposure, health and medical professionals are pushing for a ban on smoking in public housing in a report appearing in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

"Research shows that those living in multiple-unit housing are being exposed to toxins from tobacco smoke," says Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, lead author and pediatrician at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). "Even if you are not a smoker and don't smoke inside of your own apartment, if you have a neighbor who is smoking inside of his, the entire building is contaminated."

Over 7 million people are served by public housing in the U.S., with 4 in 10 units occupied by families with children. On July 17, 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a memorandum that strongly encouraged local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to implement no-smoking policies in some or all of their public housing units. While surveys indicate that 4 in 5 nonsmokers prefer smoke-free building policies, and many private landlords throughout the country have made their housing units smoke-free, only about 4% of PHAs have banned smoking in the units they manage.

The article gives specific guidance on policy options for PHAs and HUD to protect all residents from tobacco smoke exposure and clarifies that there are no legal barriers to banning smoking in public housing. "HUD has taken an important step," says coauthor Michelle Mello, JD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, "but it could do more to prod lagging PHAs to take action."

The National Toxicology Program has identified more than 250 poisonous gases, chemicals and metals in tobacco smoke, 11 of which are class A carcinogens. Numerous epidemiologic studies show that exposure to tobacco smoke can cause lung cancer and cardiac disease in nonsmokers, and the Surgeon General's report on involuntary smoking concluded that there
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Contact: Valerie Wencis
vwencis@partners.org
617-726-0274
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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