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HUD Smoking Ban To Save Lives and Taxpayer Dollars
Ban Makes Residents 60% More Likely to Quit, Protects Children
According to a new study by PLOS One, people with smoke-free homes were 60% more likely to quit smoking for at least 30 days than people without this prohibition, but the prevalence of smoke-free homes was 33% lower among low-income people than among more affluent individuals.
Therefore, the study concluded, "the gap in cessation outcomes between lower and higher income individuals could be reduced by up to 36% if more lower income individuals adopted smoke-free homes."
This may be far more important than the $153 million every year in direct cost savings, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who started the nonsmokers' rights movement and has used legal action as a weapon to ban smoking in an ever-growing number of places, including in private homes, condos, and apartments.
Although only about 15% of the adult population are smokers, their activity still costs the U.S. economy over $332 billion in direct health care costs and lost productivity every year; costs which are largely borne by nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes to pay for unnecessary smoker health costs under Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, Veterans Benefits, etc., as well as bloated health insurance premiums.
Reducing that by even one percentage point - much less by 36% - would yield enormous savings for taxpayers, says Banzhaf, while also noting that the saving is lives is even more important.
For example, he reminds us that the New York Times has reported that "at least 6,200 children die each year in the United States because of their parents' smoking . . . More young children are killed by parental smoking than by all unintentional injuries combined,'' and that parental smoking annually causes over five million serious ailments which add almost five billion dollars to the nation's medical expense costs.
The totally unnecessary killing of over 6,200 innocent and defenseless children every year is horrible to contemplate, and even a small reduction by prohibiting smoking in housing units would be more than justified, he argues.
Moreover, the nonpartisan National Fire Protection Association continues to report, year after year, that smoking is the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths in the country, and many of those victims are innocent children, innocent neighbors of the smoker, etc.
Permitting people in apartments to use the incendiary devices which cause these fires - and the totally unnecessary deaths, painful burns, and other health problems - makes little sense, and unnecessarily risks the lives and health of the great majority of families in the building who do not smoke, as well as children residing in an apartment with one of more smokers.
Remember, says, Banzhaf, the overwhelming majority of smokers, both affluent and not, already want to quit smoking, so any steps which can help them achieve that goal are important, above and beyond mere dollar savings for taxpayers.
The new PLOS One study adds to and further strengthens the large body of evidence that smoke-free housing can make it easier for people to quit, says Banzhaf.
Smoke-free homes aid smoking cessation by making it harder for smokers to light up whenever they like.
They also cut back because smoking becomes far less convenient - for example, having to walk a block through the rain, or to brave the heat or cold. Cutting back, in turn makes it easier for people to quit.
Finally, as the new study notes, "smoke-free housing makes it easier for people to quit because it removes cues that trigger cravings to use the drug (e.g., seeing and smelling a cigarette, seeing lighters, ashtrays, cigarette packs), and it removes exposure to second and thirdhand smoke."
Speaking of third-hand tobacco smoke, Banzhaf points to a bill aimed at thirdhand tobacco smoke - also known as tobacco smoke residue - which has been passed by both houses of the New York legislature. It would prohibit smoking at all times in rooms used for licensed child day care in homes, even when children aren't in the house or apartment.
HUD's action is very important and long overdue, suggests Banzhaf, since, to paraphrase the late Johnny Cochran, "IF THEY DON'T QUIT, WE SHOULD EVICT!"
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418