Introduction: Despite progress in implementing smoke-free laws in indoor public places and workplaces, millions of Americans remain exposed to secondhand smoke at home. The nation's 80 million multiunit housing residents, including the nearly 7 million who live in subsidized or public housing, are especially susceptible to secondhand smoke infiltration between units.
Methods: We calculated national and state costs that could have been averted in 2012 if smoking were prohibited in all US subsidized housing, including public housing: 1) secondhand smoke-related direct health care, 2) renovation of smoking-permitted units; and 3) smoking-attributable fires. Annual cost savings were calculated by using residency estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and cost data reported elsewhere. Data were adjusted for inflation and variations in state costs. National and state estimates (excluding Alaska and the District of Columbia) were calculated by cost type.
Results: Prohibiting smoking in subsidized housing would yield annual cost savings of $496.82 million (range, $258.96-$843.50 million), including $310.48 million ($154.14-$552.34 million) in secondhand smoke-related health care, $133.77 million ($75.24-$209.01 million) in renovation expenses, and $52.57 million ($29.57-$82.15 million) in smoking-attributable fire losses. By state, cost savings ranged from $0.58 million ($0.31-$0.94 million) in Wyoming to $124.68 million ($63.45-$216.71 million) in New York. Prohibiting smoking in public housing alone would yield cost savings of $152.91 million ($79.81-$259.28 million); by state, total cost savings ranged from $0.13 million ($0.07-$0.22 million) in Wyoming to $57.77 million ($29.41-$100.36 million) in New York.
Conclusion: Prohibiting smoking in all US subsidized housing, including public housing, would protect health and could generate substantial societal cost savings.