Smoke-Free Public Housing: Helping Smokers Quit

About the Initiative

The American Cancer Society Cancer Control Intervention group, Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at UCSF, and the North American Quitline Consortium are collaborating with PHAs, state quitlines, and community health centers (CHCs) to help residents in public housing quit smoking for good. This collaboration, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will start as a pilot program in 6 communities to help all interested residents get support to quit smoking.

A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rule will require all public housing agencies (PHAs) to implement a smoke-free policy by July 30, 2018. This rule prohibits the use of tobacco products in all residential units, indoor common areas, administrative offices, and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of public housing and administrative buildings (e-cigarette use is subject to each PHA’s discretion). Enforcement of this rule is also left to each PHA’s discretion, but residents could ultimately be evicted if they don’t comply with this rule. Since approximately 34% of adults living in public housing smoke cigarettes, the rule provides an important public health opportunity to increase access to tobacco cessation services.

This initiative will leverage the HUD rule and strengthen partnerships among residents, clinicians, PHAs, and other related organizations, including behavioral health and legal aid groups, to increase health equity. This initiative will help improve access to cessation support and opportunities to contribute to the overall health, well-being, and equity of PHA communities.

Why Public Housing?

  • There are 1,871,260 residents of public housing as of March 2018
  • More than 49% of residents remain in public housing for more than 5 years
  • Approximately 600,380 children under 18 live in public housing, accounting for 36% of residents
  • Nearly 283,000 residents of public housing are age 62 and above, representing 17% of residents
  • About 21% of public housing households include a member who is disabled
  • The average annual household income is $14,578, well below the poverty line; the primary source of income for 34% of households is wages from working
  • Public housing residents:
    • Are more likely to be in fair or poor health (35.8% of adults, compared to 13.8% of other adults)
    • Have high rates of tobacco-related illnesses (i.e. COPD – 13.1% of adults compared to 6.1% of other adults)
    • Are more likely to have health problems made worse by secondhand smoke, like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes
    • Are more likely to spend more time indoors due to safety concerns, increasing exposure to secondhand smoke, reducing activity levels, and exacerbating obesity-related issues
    • Many people in public housing also face mental health issues; those with mental health issues are more likely to smoke


ECHO Schedule

E-newsletter #1

E-newsletter #2

Clearing the Air: Comprehensive Approaches to Smoke-free Public Housing Webinar

Smoke-Free Multifamily Housing Resource Bank  

Measuring the Number of Public Housing Residents Who Receive Quitline Services 

SFPH Overview

The American Cancer Society Can Help

CDC Tips from Former Smokers Public Housing Infographic in English and Spanish​

Partner Hub

SFPH Partner Hub (restricted access for grant stakeholders)

Technical Assistance

Additional technical assistance through accredited webinars, online resources, and a toll-free technical assistance line (1-877- 509-3786) will be available to the public at no cost. Sign up to keep informed at 100 Pioneers Listserv. 


For questions or comments please email [email protected].