Renters living in approximately 780,000 privately owned rental units remain unprotected from secondhand smoke in the city of Los Angeles, despite the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announcement that public housing developments in the U.S. will be required to provide a smoke-free environment for their residents.
“This is terrific news,” said Peggy Toy, director of UCLA-Smokefree Air For Everyone (UCLA-SAFE). “But in the city of Los Angeles, public housing is only a small share of the housing stock. We need to make sure all residents in the rest of the city’s multi-unit rentals also have protection from secondhand smoke.”
More than 3,100 public housing agencies (PHAs) across the nation can now put in place required smoke-free policies over the next 18 months.
The federal ruling prohibits lit tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings.
There are only 6,500 public housing units in the city, according to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. In comparison, there are 780,000 privately owned rental units in the city, of which approximately 624,000 of them (80 percent) are under rent-control, according to The Los Angeles Housing Department. None of these privately-owned units will benefit from the new HUD protections.
UCLA-SAFE launched a smoke-free housing initiative in Los Angeles in April 2016 that encourages owners of market-rate multi-unit apartments in densely populated areas of the city to voluntarily put in place smoke-free policies to reduce residents’ exposure to secondhand smoke.
UCLA-SAFE, supported by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, focuses its efforts on densely populated neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles where a high proportion of Latinos and African-Americans live. The two groups have among the highest rates of chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
In conjunction with the campaign kickoff, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released a study that showed a majority of tenants favored smoke-free apartments, but 80 percent of units did not have smoke-free policies.
The CDC estimates cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans each year, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the HUD press release. In addition, smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths in multifamily buildings.