This year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is considering an indoor smoking ban in the 1.2 million apartments it manages. For HUD, it’s both a public health and safety issue. Not only is smoking a well-known cause of cancer, but second-hand smoke can be very dangerous as well. On top of that, lit cigarettes cause deadly home fires all over the country every year.
HUD is holding off on making a final decision until they receive more feedback from residents, but other housing authorities are already taking action. In Buffalo, NY, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority has announced it will start rolling out the new smoking ban starting July 1, 2016. Once it goes into effect, residents will no longer be allowed to smoke inside their apartments, and even building employees will be required to smoke at least 25 feet away from public buildings.
Aside from the cancerous consequences of tobacco products, smoke has other long-term consequences for public housing authorities. According to professional cleaners, carpets can contain thousands of dust mites and pounds of dust, as well as mold and germs. In a home or apartment with smokers, the smell of smoke can linger for years.
What do residents think of these proposed indoor smoking bans? Equanda Willis is a 37-year-old smoker in a public housing project in Brooklyn, NY, and she told Marketplace she thinks the ban is simply impractical.
“It’s gonna be kind of hard,” Willis said. “Not unless they’re gonna have security guards standing at people’s apartments sniffing out smoke. I don’t understand how it’s gonna work.”
Both HUD and the Buffalo Housing Authority insist that any smoking ban would be focused on public health, not punishing offenders.
“I believe that people should be able to smoke,” said Willis. “If they pay rent there, they should be able to smoke where they want to smoke.”
To help residents, authorities say they will make tobacco-cessation resources available to anyone who wants them.