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400,000 New Yorkers will be affected by ban on smoking in public housing

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The federal ban will result in 940,000 smoke-free apartments nationwide

Joel Raskin

Starting early next year, smoking will be banned in all public housing developments across the country. That ban will have the strongest impact in New York City, where 400,000 people live in NYCHA housing, the New York Times reports.

Many public housing agencies across the country had already implemented bans in their cities or for their developments prior to this federal mandate announced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Wednesday.

NYCHA however was not one of them, and has not kept pace with some of the other agencies throughout the country. To be fair, it is the largest public housing agency in the country, and it has been trying to work with the HUD for the past three years to gradually phase in a smoking ban, but to no effect.

Residents are already prohibited from smoking in the lobbies and hallways of NYCHA buildings, but this new rule means that they will not be able to smoke in any of the living or common areas, and would have to be at least 25 feet away from the apartment buildings or administrative offices to smoke.

The decision was in large part prompted by an increased prevalence of childhood asthma, according to DNAinfo. One third of NYCHA residents have said that they have at least one child suffering from asthma. About 760,000 children live in public housing nationwide.

The ban will result in 940,000 apartments throughout the States going smoke-free and will save millions of dollars in healthcare costs, repairs to buildings, and fire-related damages.

While the rule will go into effect early next year, public housing agencies will have about a year and a half to ensure that it is fully enforced. The law can only be enforced by public housing officials and the police won’t be able to issue fines. The secretary of HUD, Julian Castro, also told the Times that this was not a means of evicting tenants, and that this ban will be accompanied by counseling and education, and will start with warnings and then small fines.