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Researchers: Secondhand Smoke Threatens Millions in Public Housing

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Americans who live in public housing are exposed to secondhand smoke from their neighbors, according to researchers who demonstrated how smoke from one apartment unit can infiltrate into others.

UPI reported June 19 that researchers Jonathan Winickoff of MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Michelle Mello of the Harvard School of Public Health stated, “Even if you are not a smoker and don’t smoke inside of your own apartment, if you have a neighbor who is smoking inside of his, the entire building is contaminated.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has encouraged public-housing authorities (PHAs) to ban smoking in at least some units, but only about 4 percent have done so.

“The use of federal regulatory or contractual mechanisms to ensure that PHAs implement no-smoking policies in public housing raises ethical concerns and practical challenges;” the authors concluded, “however, it is justified in light of the harms resulting from exposure to tobacco smoke, the lack of other avenues of legal redress for nonsmoking residents of public housing, and the languid pace at which PHAs have voluntarily implemented no-smoking policies.”

Smokers’ rights groups slammed the report, saying a ban would infringe upon the freedoms of public-housing residents, the New York Times reported June 18. “He wants us to believe we’re having an effect on people’s health through air ducts?” said Audrey Silk of the group NYC-CLASH, Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. “These people have an agenda — a smoke-free society.”

The study appears in the June 17, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine

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