Public Housing Goes Smoke-Free Nationwide
HACEP adopted policy years before HUD-enacted ban took effect
El Paso, Texas – An Obama-era policy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which ensures a smoke-free environment for public housing residents, goes into effect nationwide today.
The policy, enacted two years after it was announced, states that lit cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can only be smoked at least 25 feet away from public housing units.
The policy marks the end of an 18-month window that gave the country’s 3,100 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) time to enact this change. The Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, TX (HACEP), however, and other agencies, were among the first PHAs to ban smoking in 2015 – months before the HUD policy became reality.
“While HACEP went beyond federal regulations in 2015 to create smoke-free communities then, I’m pleased to see all PHAs across the country adopt this policy,” said HACEP CEO Gerald Cichon. “A healthy community is a strong community and environments free of tobacco are another step on our mission to provide El Pasoans with safe, decent and clean affordable housing.”
The genesis of HACEP’s smoke-free initiative was through a survey done in partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) School of Nursing. A 2015 survey of nearly 1,500 HACEP residents revealed that 87% worried about the effects of second-hand smoking while 80% supported smoke-free communities.
The data became the backbone of HACEP’s smoke-free policy, enacted shortly after the survey was complete. UTEP along with HACEP’s Resident Services teams rolled out smoking cessation education and program referrals to residents, ensuring the success of the program in its early days.
HACEP’s efforts were honored locally. The agency earned recognition from The City of El Paso’s Department of Public Health – which presented the agency with its Pillars of Public Health Award – and the Smoke-Free Paso Del Norte Coalition, which awarded HACEP its Chester L. Bryant Valor Award.
HUD's smoke-free rule will reduce damage and maintenance costs associated with smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HUD's national smoke-free policy will save public housing agencies $153 million every year in health care due to secondhand smoke, and in repairs and preventable fires.
The CDC estimates cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans each year, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In addition, smoking is the lead cause of fire-related deaths in multifamily buildings.
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The Housing Authority of the City El Paso, TX (HACEP), the 14th largest housing authority in the United States and manages the 2nd largest public housing portfolio in Texas. Home to the first NetZero, fossil fuel free, LEED Platinum affordable housing community in the U.S., HACEP provides high-quality housing assistance to over 40,000 low-income El Pasoans through its Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher, Tax Credit, Non-Subsidized and Section 8 New Construction programs.
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