Smok­ing banned in pub­lic hous­ing

New rule from HUD to take ef­fect early next year in fed­er­ally sub­si­dized units

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Colin Camp­bell and Tim Pru­dente cm­camp­bell@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/cm­camp­bell6

Smok­ing is to be pro­hib­ited in fed­er­ally sub­si­dized pub­lic hous­ing na­tion­wide as soon as early next year un­der a rule an­nounced Wed­nes­day by the U.S. Department of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Development.

The rule, which was pro­posed by the agency last year, bans lit to­bacco prod­ucts such as cig­a­rettes, cigars and pipes in all in­door ar­eas — even in­side peo­ple’s apart­ments — and within 25 feet of all build­ings.

The agency is giv­ing lo­cal pub­lic hous­ing agen­cies18 months to im­ple­ment the pol­icy.

The rule would bring more than 940,000 pub­lic hous­ing units in line with the more than 228,000 across the coun­try that have al­ready gone smoke-free un­der a vol­un­tary HUD pol­icy or lo­cal ini­tia­tives. The ban does not apply to elec­tronic cig­a­rettes or smoke­less al­ter­na­tives such as snuff or chew­ing to­bacco.

The pro­hi­bi­tion is to be writ­ten into res­i­dents’ leases. Re­peated vi­o­la­tions could lead to evic­tion.

One pos­si­ble ob­sta­cle to the ban: Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump could re­verse it when he takes of­fice. His tran­si­tion team did not re­spond Wed­nes­day to a re­quest for com­ment.

Trump has re­port­edly of­fered the job of HUD sec­re­tary to re­tired Johns Hop­kins neu­ro­sur­geon Dr. Ben Car­son.

The Hous­ing Au­thor­ity of Bal­ti­more City, the largest in the state, op­er­ates 11,000 pub­lic hous­ing units. The agency has not yet im­ple­mented a smoke-free pol­icy, spokes­woman Ta­nia Baker said.

“It is our in­tent to fully com­ply with the rule within the pre­scribed time­frame,” Baker said.

In his an­nounce­ment, HUD Sec­re­tary Ju­lian Cas­tro said the rule would bring health ben­e­fits, such as the elim­i­na­tion of sec­ond­hand smoke.

The rule is ex­pected to cost lo­cal pub­lic hous­ing agen­cies $7.7 mil­lion per year. But the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion said it would save $153 mil­lion per year — $94 mil­lion in sec­ond­hand smok­ere­lated health care, $43 mil­lion in reno- “Once you pay your money and sign your lease, you should be able to smoke,” Chris Lewis said Wed­nes­day out­side Perkins Homes near Fells Point. Lewis said be be­lieves the ban is ar­bi­trary. va­tion of smok­ing-per­mit­ted units and $16 mil­lion in smok­ing-re­lated fires.

Smok­ing causes more than 100,000 fires each year na­tion­wide, re­sult­ing in more than 500 deaths and nearly half a bil­lion dol­lars in prop­erty dam­age.

Bal­ti­more Health Com­mis­sioner Dr. Leana Wen said she saw pa­tients suf­fer and die from smok­ing when she worked as an emer­gency room doc­tor.

Sec­ond­hand smoke is a lead­ing cause of asthma and breath­ing prob­lems in chil­dren, Wen said. She called for the elim­i­na­tion of smok­ing in all in­door spaces.

“We at the Bal­ti­more City Health Department ap­plaud HUD’s de­ci­sion to elim­i­nate smok­ing in pub­lic hous­ing,” Wen­said. “This will pro­tect all Bal­ti­more­ans and en­sure that all of our chil­dren grow up in healthy, smoke-free homes.”

But the rule elicited chuck­les around Perkins Homes near Fells Point. Smok­ers won­dered how it would be en­forced.

“Good luck with that,” one man said Wed­nes­day, laugh­ing, as he walked out of the Win Gro­cery and Deli.

An­other man, who iden­ti­fied him­self only as John, dragged on a cig­a­rette and laughed, too.

“Hey, they’re try­ing to ban our cig­a­rettes,” he shouted across the street. “How would they know we’re smok­ing? They’re go­ing to fine us?”

About 1,400 peo­ple live in Perkins Homes. Ten­ant Candace Worm­ley, 31, doesn’t smoke, but said the ban was ab­surd.

Nearby, Don­nie Bow­man agreed. He said he has smoked about a pack of New­ports a day since he was a teenager. The 44-yearold prefers to smoke in­side his home.

“It keeps the trou­ble out of my face,” he said. “They ain’t go­ing to be able to stop it, not as long as my name is on the lease.”

Chris Lewis, 42, said the ban ar­bi­trary.

“Like I can’t have gold­fish,” he said. “Once you pay your money and sign your lease, you should be able to smoke. I mean, that’s crazy. Where are you all com­ing up with this? If you en­dan­ger your­self per­son- felt ally, your lungs, it’s a choice — it’s your choice. It doesn’t feel right.”

HUD­said it had re­ceived feed­back on the dif­fi­culty of en­forc­ing a smok­ing pro­hi­bi­tion. The agency said the pol­icy should be en­forced like any other lease con­di­tion.

HUD en­cour­aged lo­cal hous­ing au­thor­i­ties to work with res­i­dents to de­velop smoke-free poli­cies, which of­fi­cials ex­pect will lead to more com­pli­ance.

John Bul­lock, the city coun­cil­man-elect for the 9th Dis­trict in West Bal­ti­more, said the ban will be un­pop­u­lar with long­time smok­ers, even those who would like to quit.

But he pointed to high rates of hy­per­ten­sion, di­a­betes, res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems and other ill­nesses in the area, and said the ef­fects of sec­ond­hand smoke, es­pe­cially on chil­dren raised in pub­lic hous­ing, can’t be over­looked.

“I know it’s go­ing to be hard for some folks to deal with,” he said. “But I un­der­stand the ra­tio­nale for do­ing it.”

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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