WASHINGTON, DC — Smoking will no longer be allowed inside public housing nationwide starting on July 31.
The ban from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department was announced back in November 2016 but gave Public Housing Agencies until July 31, 2018 to comply.
HUD explained that the smoke-free rule will reduce damage and maintenance costs tied to smoking, cutback on secondhand smoke and lower the risk of accidental fires.
As part of the policy, no smoking will be allowed inside any public housing buildings or within 25 feet of those buildings. Each housing agency can also create additional smoke-free areas if they choose.
According to HUD, at least 600 of its more than 3,100 Public Housing Agencies across the country already had smoke-free policies in place when the rule was announced in 2016.
Chikenya Carter, a resident at Clinton-Peabody Housing Complex, admits she’s been smoking inside her unit for years. She’s only known about this tobacco ban for a matter of weeks.
“They just now put that in our mailbox. Probably like a month ago, and everybody just laughed about it,” says Carter.
Carter is referencing an addendum to her lease. A sample addendum on HUD’s website clearly spells out, if you continue to break rules and smoke inside your unit or outside less than 25 feet from a door, you can face eviction.
Carter said as much as she opposes the rule change, she’ll follow it.
“I don’t want to lose my apartment over no cigarettes,” says Carter.
Arnold Phillips, another Clinton-Peabody reference, believes the federal government is just “blowing smoke.”
“I don’t see how they could police it. They don’t have enough people to do half the stuff around here now so I don’t see how they could force it. Unless they’re just going to come in your house when they’re unwanted. I don’t know,” says Phillips.
Enforcement is up to each individual housing authority.
According to HUD’s handbook on implementing this policy, another housing agency that’s already gone tobacco-free says “Enforcement is a challenge because we rely on people reporting the smoke to maintenance and maintenance staff is not at the building 24/7.
The director goes on to explain they send a letter for the first violation, issue a verbal warning after the second. If it gets to a third, it’s three strikes and you’re out.
“If that’s the case, you might as well evict everybody down here because I’m pretty sure more people smoke than I do,” says Phillips.
The federal rule change does not ban the use of E-Cigarettes. HUD does allow individual housing authorities to add that on. As far as 5 On Your Side can tell, that’s not part of St. Louis’s plan. The station did attempt to reach out to the St. Louis Housing Authority, but their office was closed on Sunday.