Alaska Families Living in Public House Now Protected From Secondhand Smoke

ANCHORAGE (July 30, 2018) – There’s no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and now Alaska residents in public housing are protected by a new smokefree housing rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that goes into effect today.

“Today we’re creating a healthier future for the state of Alaska and our nation,” said Marge Stoneking, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Alaska. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy life. Ensuring homes are free from the risks of secondhand smoke is a critical step for the health of residents

Alaska has been leading the charge to ensure smokefree public housing, as the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) went smokefree in their multi-unit housing more than a year in advance of the federal deadline. Though the AHFC was not the first housing authority in Alaska to pass a smokefree housing policy, they are by far the largest with over 1,600 units statewide, and the only public housing authority this ruling applies to, as tribal housing authorities are not covered under the rule. However, American Lung Association and other tobacco prevention partners have been working with tribal housing authorities for a decade, and the majority of them have already passed smokefree multi-unit housing policies.

In November 2016, HUD announced a rule requiring all federally-owned public housing to become smokefree by July 30, 2018. This rule will protect close to two million Americans nationwide from being exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, including 690,000 children.

Secondhand smoke exposure poses serious health threats to both children and adults. Damaging health effects in children and adults include lung cancer, respiratory infections, worsened asthma symptoms, heart attacks and stroke. Residents of multi-unit housing can’t control the secondhand smoke exposure caused by neighbors smoking indoors, and an average of 65 percent of air is exchanged with other units in the building. Many in public housing include vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, and those with lung-related health issues who are more susceptible to the effects of secondhand smoke.

More information on smokefree multi-unit housing across Alaska is available at smokefreehousingak.org, as well as guidelines to make properties smokefree.

Holly Harvey
American Lung Association