Last week a federal rule passed that U.S. public housing residences must be smoke-free. Public housing agencies have a year and half to implement these policies and over 1.2 million homes will be forced to adopt them.
New York, in particular, will be the city most affected by this new rule. The New York City Housing Authority, which is the largest agency in the U.S. with 178,000 apartments that house over 400,000 residents, has been dragging its feet to adopt smoke-free policies.
The agency has asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development to give them time to implement the policy.
The agency issued a statement following the announcement of the rule stating that it was “fully committed to providing an environment that promotes resident health as part of our vision of safe, clean and connected communities.”
“Anti-smoking advocates consider smoke-free housing the latest major front in the long-running campaign to curb exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. The rule covering public housing forbids cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookahs (or water pipes) — but not electronic cigarettes — from being smoked in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and office buildings,” writes The New York Times.
Housing agencies have been trying to enforce no-smoking policies with warnings and fines. But, will this be enough? Or will they be forced to take more drastic measures?
“The last thing that we want are evictions,” said Julián Castro, the HUD secretary, on a call with reporters. “We don’t see this as a policy that is meant to end in a whole lot of evictions.”
So where will the agencies get the money to enforce these policies? Apparently, not from the federal government.
Housing officials are convinced that the agencies will save a ton of money from averted fire losses and reduced expenses for cleaning and fixing up smoke-damaged units.
But, opponents of the rule feel the government has no right to tell them what to do in the privacy of their own homes and they have a valid point.
The government is banning a legal activity from taking place in people’s private homes and they are taking advantage of the fact that it’s public housing and they have some control over these residents. Besides being unenforceable, this seems to be a severe invasion of their privacy.
So what is the HUD’s reasoning for this? To improve health.
“Health officials said that a significant amount of smoke could be transferred between apartments and that alternatives, such as improving ventilation, did not eliminate the ills of secondhand smoke, including causing or aggravating conditions like asthma and lung cancer. Children are especially vulnerable; 760,000 of them live in public housing,” writes The New York Times.
But again, this is almost impossible to enforce.
Fines and warmings aren’t going to be effective and won’t deter most people from smoking in their homes, especially since they aren’t doing anything wrong.
Editor’s note: I’m not a smoker and I don’t think ANYONE should smoke. But smoking is a legal activity and if it remains legal then this new regulation certainly qualifies as un-Constitutional.