Don’t Even Think About Lighting Up Here

June 12, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Looking around for something of interest to discuss in this blog post, a recent Department of Housing and Urban Development memo happened across my desk that struck me as a good idea in theory, but something that must be a real challenge to actually implement.

The agency’s offices of Public and Indian Housing and Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control recently reissued a 2009 notice strongly encouraging public housing authorities to implement smoke-free policies in some or all of their public housing units.  The notice goes on to discuss statistics from the American Lung Association and the Environmental Protection Agency about the dangers of smoking, as well as the agency’s desire to increase public health protections for residents in public housing.  HUD currently is developing additional guidance to assist PHAs with the adoption of smoke-free policies.

Along with the health concerns, HUD stated that unit turnover costs increase when apartments are vacated by smokers. These costs include purchasing additional paint to cover smoke stains, cleaning of air ducts and replacing stained window blinds and carpets damaged by cigarettes.  Therefore, some PHAS are prohibiting smoking for new residents, and more than 225 PHAs and housing commissions nationwide have implemented nonsmoking policies. The memo advises PHAs opting to implement a nonsmoking policy to update their PHA plans to include their nonsmoking rules and standards.

As a nonsmoker myself, I’m all for HUD’s efforts to encourage PHAs to implement nonsmoking policies. However, simply adding nonsmoking policies will not make it easier for residents, many who have smoked for much of their lives, to quit smoking. Although the memo mentions smoking-cession support, I don’t see these residents proactively seeking such support. Old habits, especially addictive ones, are hard to change, especially for many lower-economic residents in public housing. I’ve seen nonsmoking policies work in bars and bowling alleys that used to be constantly infested with a smoky haze. However, a business is one thing; a person’s home is another.

I’d really be interested to know how the nonsmoking policies are working at PHAs. If any PHA readers are out there, let us know what your experience has been with this.    

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