Behavioural economics is one of the hottest ideas in public policy

The employer is bound to know thepublic policies of the state and nation as expressed in theirconstitutions, statutes, judicial decisions and administrativeregulations, particularly, as here, those bearing directly upon theemployer's business.

Marcus Hobley is a freelance commentator, specialising in economic and public policy, he tweets at

Third, HUD could include stipulations on future grants to PHAs that make full funding for all programs, including Section 8, conditional on the submission of an acceptable plan to implement smoke-free policies over some defined time period. HUD used a variant of this approach in 2009 in connection with a funding opportunity under the federal economic stimulus package. PHAs that applied for stimulus funds were awarded one point in the competitive application process if they agreed to make proposed projects smoke-free as part of a Green Communities program incentive. Although the award of a substantial amount of grant funds on the condition that the applicant implement smoke-free policies would not constitute a federal ban on smoking in public housing, it would be likely to have the same practical effect as a ban because PHAs can ill afford to lose program funds.


Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy

So how do today's public leaders better use public opinion to achieve their ministerial set public policy objectives?

Views on the use and role of public opinion in forming policy can often be as diverse as the opinions themselves. Winston Churchill took the view that there was "no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion". While Abraham Lincoln's take was simply: "Public opinion in this country is everything".


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This fragmented regulatory structure fosters inconsistency in the quality of programs and facilities provided, as well as the policy-making and enforcement practices across public-housing programs and local housing authorities. Reflecting such variation, no-smoking policies are at present the rare exception rather than the rule among PHAs.

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The decentralized nature of the ownership and administration of public housing creates challenges to those attempting to develop a cohesive smoke-free policy. Public housing takes a variety of forms, including publicly owned and subsidized apartment buildings, which currently house 2.1 million tenants, and voucher or so-called Section 8 programs, which currently provide 4.9 million tenants with a HUD subsidy to help cover their rent in private housing. These programs are administered by separate departments within HUD, each of which sets its own policies. In addition, states may offer supplemental public-housing programs that operate without HUD funding.

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Exposure to tobacco smoke in the home can be avoided fully only through the implementation of a complete smoking ban. Mitigation measures such as the use of fans, air filters, and separate smoking rooms are ineffective. Ridding public housing of tobacco smoke would keep such settings in step with the trend toward no-smoking policies in workplaces, private housing, and even private vehicles.

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According to HUD, the PHAs may adopt no-smoking policies in public housing at their discretion, as long as state and local laws permit such policies, because federal laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do not provide protection for a right to smoke. No-smoking policies may be applied to both incoming public-housing residents and current residents, as long as the application to current residents is delayed for a reasonable period of time — for example, until the lease is up for renewal.