Vaping Comes Into Question For HUD Smoking Ban

While all the political press seems to be on the President-Elect, a weird bit of news for vapers in public housing has just dropped, and it has to do with smoke-free policies.

Newswire is reporting that Julian Castro, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has recently made a public statement on a new smoke-free policy that will affect millions of people who currently live in public housing. There are currently over 3,000 Public Housing Agencies, or PHAs, that will be affected by this statement. These agencies are responsible for the nearly one million public housing units across the country.

In his statement, Castro states that: “HUD’s smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities. By working collaboratively with public housing agencies, HUD’s rule will create healthier homes for all of our families and prevent devastating and costly smoking-related fires.”

The statement, which you can read in full here, decrees that within the next 18 months, all public housing units that receive subsidization from the federal government will become smoke-free. This policy was created to prevent secondhand smoke and the health dangers that it can cause to children and young adults, thereby removing an unnecessary health concern from government housing. And as it is handed down by the HUD, there is little doubt that it will be enforced.

However, for those anti-smoking and anti-vaping activists who thought that this policy would include vape devices, the policy is a half-measure.

That’s because vaping is not included in the ban; only traditional cigarettes and tobacco products have been named. In fact, the policy explicitly states which products are banned, stating that the 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.”

This is a win for the vaping community, as several studies have shown that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than cigarette smoke, a subject we have reported on before. HUD also stated that there isn’t enough evidence that vaping is as dangerous as tobacco, leading many vapers hopeful that ruling will stand and even clearly stated that it was prohibiting tobacco products, not any product that produces smoke.

This is further highlighted in the HUD’s Final Ruling on the policy. It clearly states that: “HUD does not define “smoking,” but rather “prohibited tobacco products.” HUD is restricting the use of prohibited tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and water pipes (hookahs).”

But for those who are celebrating the smoke-free policy and the absence of vaping in its wording, there is a word of caution that comes from RStreet.

While the ruling currently does not ban vaping altogether from all public housing, the final ruling does state that different PHAs can choose to ban it from their units. The ruling also states that this case-by-case basis of removing vaping from units is possible “If they [PHAs] deem such a prohibition beneficial.” Beneficial is not defined by the policy and therefore could be interpreted in the broadest of terms.

HUD also states that it could, and might, revise its vape ban stance if new studies show that vaping is as dangerous as tobacco products or that it could result in “significant maintenance savings.” Such a phrase as this is so general that the department could at any time, for any reason, choose to add vaping to the ban without giving a concrete reason as to why it was then included in the ban.

This is HUD’s current stance on vaping in public housing and it’s important to keep this in mind as a new administration steps forward in less than 45 days. A large percentage of smokers who live in public housing could benefit from vaping as a smoking cessation device, but only if they aren’t banned from using it in their own homes.

We will continue to keep you updated on HUD and its position on vaping.

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