Residents frustrated as public housing smoking ban takes effect

New public housing smoking ban not sitting well with residents

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) – Smoking inside the home is now banned for millions of Americans living in public housing.

The new policy went into place July 31.

People won't just have to take their cigarette outside but may actually need to cross the street in some spots. The new ban prevents smoking within 25 feet of public housing and administrative buildings.

The new ban and distance requirement is a big concern for smokers and non-smokers alike. Residents at Northtown Terrace in Jeffersonville pulled out the flyers left by housing officials at their homes in June, detailing ways to quit smoking and explaining about the new ban.

"Honestly, it's ludicrous," Kevon Nelson, a longtime resident at Northtown Terrace in Jeffersonville, said.

He and his neighbors are upset at the change.

"I pay a lot of rent to live here and I feel like I should be able to smoke in my residence," Tracy Watson said.

"It's a personal choice and they're taking our rights away from us, as parents, as people," Melisa Chambers said.

Chambers also said with kids in the house, she always comes outside to smoke. But under the new ban, she'll have to walk out of the complex to smoke a cigarette.

"There's a lot of elderly people, they can't walk, they can barely talk. They've been out here 60 years, I know a lady that's been here more than 80 years. How is she supposed to get up and walk 20 feet to smoke a cigarette? Honestly, it's disappointing," Nelson said.

"Personally, I'd say, I'm not a big fan of the government telling anyone how they're supposed to live their life," Rob Burgess, Jeffersonville Housing Authority Board Chairman said.

But, Burgess said, it's not up to him; the rule is from HUD and it's being enforced around the country.

In Jeffersonville, they'll install smoking areas for people to use and offer classes to help people kick the habit. They're working with Community Action of Southern Indiana and the American Lung Association to provide resources and programs for residents to use.

The new ban will improve community health and save costs cleaning up after smokers move out.

"If you've got a resident that's been in a unit for 10, 15 years and smoking their entire time, it might be cheaper for us to completely rip the unit out and start fresh," Burgess said.

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They'll offer a five-step program for people caught smoking, starting with warnings and ending with eviction, though Burgess said they'll have an option to revoke that if residents are willing to go through coaching. They won't be evicting people right away either. Burgess said he wants to ease residents into the new rule and partner with them on what to do.

"We want to work with you. We aren't looking to displace families," Burgess said.

The CDC estimated the smoking ban will reduce secondhand smoke risk in children and the elderly and save $497 million in health care and housing-related costs each year.

For more information from HUD on the smoke-free change, visit the website here.

August 1 was the first full day for the ban in public housing nationwide.

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