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HUD Seeks Smoking Ban in Public Housing

Smoking could soon be banned in the nation's public housing.
A woman smokes a cigarette at her house in New York.EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP - Getty Images file

Smoking could soon be banned in the nation's public housing.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule Thursday to require the more than 3,100 public housing agencies across the country to make their properties smoke-free.

"We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially the elderly and children who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases," HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a statement.

Related: 'Real Progress': Percentage of U.S. Smokers Plummets, CDC Finds

Castro says the ban would protect the health of more than 760,000 children and save about $153 million a year in health care costs, repairs and preventable fires.

The rule would ban lit tobacco products in all residences, indoor common areas and administrative offices. Smoking also would be prohibited outdoors within 25 feet of housing and administrative buildings.

In 2009, HUD began encouraging public housing agencies nationwide to adopt smoke-free policies in their buildings and common areas. Currently, there are more than 228,000 public housing units that are smoke-free. The proposed rule would impact the more than 940,000 units where smoking is allowed.

The nation's surgeon general says the rule is needed to protect public housing residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

"As all of you know secondhand smoke is a very important issue," U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Thursday. "In fact if you ever need proof, you just need to head a few miles north of here where our new speaker of the house is still having trouble getting the smell of smoke out of the speakers suite."

The public has 60 days to comment on the rule. The ban would take effect 18 months after the rule is finalized.