In its quest to ban smoking in all of the nation’s 1.2 million public housing units, the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday announced a rule that would require more than 3,100 public housing agencies to go smoke-free within several years. This is their latest step in a decades-long crackdown on tobacco products that help kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

Under the rule, the agencies’ policies prohibiting lit tobacco products must apply to all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices, and in all outdoor areas near housing and administrative office buildings.

HUD will not design a final rule until after it hears public comments over the next two months, but since the Obama administration is leaning toward the smoking ban, it likely will be adopted. Since 2009 when HUD strongly encouraged public housing agencies to design anti-smoking policies, more than 600 have done so, making more than 228,000 of the nation’s public housing units already smoke-free.

But while generally supporting the government’s move, housing authority officials and lawyers have noted several concerns, including enforcement and resistance to the smoking ban by some residents.

“Obviously, there is a clear public health issue,’’ said Amy M. Glassman, who is of counsel at Ballard Spahr in Washington and represents public housing authorities. “But especially when you’re talking about banning smoking within their housing unit, folks take that as an issue of personal space and freedom, ‘You’re telling me what to do within the confines of my own home.’ That’s the main pushback issue.’’

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