Smoking ban takes effect in HUD public housing

According to the American Lung Association, a new smokefree housing rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will protect as many as 15,000 RI families who are now living in public housing communities from secondhand smoke.

The rule mandates that lit cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can only be smoked at least 25 feet away from public housing units.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the change in November of 2016.

"In addition to protecting residents and employees from secondhand smoke, smoke-free policies create healthy environments that encourage people who smoke to quit or attempt to reduce smoking", the department continued. The ban will not prohibit e-cigarettes, snuff, or chewing tobacco. Tenants are still allowed to smoke on the premises, but only in certain areas.

Lewis said the federal smoke-free policy only applies to roughly 2,600 MHA units the agency owns and operates and not to the Section 8 voucher program.

Public housing tenants must sign smoke-free contracts and can face eviction if they break the rule.

The new rule is not being universally embraced - a smoker's rights group in NY is suing to block the ban on the grounds that it violates tenants' constitutional rights.

In addition to reducing the risk of fires and lowering maintenance costs, HUD said the ban on smoking would drastically improve indoor air quality in public housing spaces.

Stevens Point Housing Authority Executive Director Donna Bella can't help but think of the special circumstances in Wisconsin as this rule takes effect across the country.

"Smoking actually damages the units, whether it's the paint or the cabinets", he said. "So for us it wasn't a new policy, it was expanding to our other properties".

  • Delores Daniels