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Almost $500 million could be saved annually by making subsidized housing smoke-free

MILWAUKEE--Prohibiting smoking in all government subsidized housing in the United States, including public housing, would save an estimated $497 million per year in health care and housing-related costs, according to a CDC study published in Preventing Chronic Disease.

The total cost saved comprises of about $310 million in secondhand smoke-related health care, $134 million in renovation expenses, and $53 million in smoking-attributable fire losses.  The analysis found that prohibiting smoking in public housing either owned or operated by a government housing authority would yield cost savings of $153 million annually.

Nearly 80 million Americans live in multi-unit housing. Of these, nearly 7 million U.S. multi-unit housing residents live in government subsidized housing, including approximately 2 million in public housing.

Jamar Banks is one of those tenants, he lives in the Hillside public housing complex and also smokes. He feels that if local government were to move forward with some type of legislation, it would infringe on his public rights.

But Paul Williams, the Communications Director for Milwaukee Public Housing doesn't see it so simple. He says that aside from the money saved in renovation expenses, the people affected by second-hand smoke, also have to be considered...even if the smoking is taking place n your own apartment, because smoke may make its way to a neighbor's home.

Multi-unit housing residents are susceptible to secondhand smoke exposure because studies have shown that secondhand smoke gets through ventilation systems and windows and spreads into units where no smoking occurs. The potential for secondhand smoke exposure in public or subsidized housing is especially concerning because a large number of the residents in these units are particularly vulnerable to the impact of secondhand smoke, including children, the elderly, and the disabled.

“Already, more than 500 public housing agencies have adopted some form of a smoke free policy, protecting approximately 200,000 families,” said Matthew Ammon, Acting Director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes.

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