In the state of Maine, it has been illegal since 2008 to smoke in a car carrying passengers less than 16 years of age. The rationale is that children strapped into a smoke-filled car are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of second-hand smoke, which can be 12 to 15 times higher than in a house or apartment, and that the law should protect these children.
In a similar spirit, two lawyers and a pediatrician recently published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine recommending that the Department of Housing and Urban Development place a ban on smoking in the housing facilities it rents to low-income residents. According to the authors, those who smoke it multi-unit buildings put numerous people at risk:
Tobacco smoke can move along air ducts, through cracks in the walls and floors, through elevator shafts, and along plumbing and electrical lines to affect units on other floors. High levels of tobacco toxins can persist in the indoor environment long after the period of active smoking…over a period of days to years. In households in which one or more people smoke, the urine levels of [cancer-causing tobacco toxins] are consistently higher in infants than in nonsmoking adults…
Tobacco-smoke exposure in public housing is particularly troubling because it afflicts disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. In 2008–2009, 32% of households in public housing included elderly persons, 35% included disabled persons, and 41% included children…Adolescents who live in public housing are considered to be at high risk for early experimentation with cigarettes. –NEJM
While this recommendation may infuriate a lot of people, including those living in public housing, it will be difficult to argue legally that smoking in public housing is an inherent right. As the authors point out, various courts have upheld that smoking bans don’t violate the Constitution, and that the government can issue a ban as long as it has a “reasonable basis” for it (e.g. protecting public health). Moreover, the Fair Housing Act does not grant smokers’ rights.