Pub­lic hous­ing smok­ing ban draws mixed re­views

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - WEATHER - By Karen Matthews

Elba Acosta was dis­tressed to learn that her morn­ing habit of cof­fee and a smoke in­side her New York City Hous­ing Au­thor­ity apart­ment will be banned un­der new fed­eral rules pro­hibit­ing smok­ing in pub­lic hous­ing.

“I have my black cof­fee and a cig­a­rette at home,” Acosta, 67, said Thurs­day out­side the Chelsea-El­liot Houses. “I mean, that’s my free­dom. You do what­ever you want to do be­cause it’s your body. The gov­ern­ment has no business in your per­sonal choice.”

Acosta was re­act­ing to U.S. Hous­ing Sec­re­tary Ju­lian Cas­tro’s an­nounce­ment Wed­nes­day that smok­ing will be banned in pub­lic hous­ing de­vel­op­ments na­tion­wide. Hous­ing agen­cies will have 18 months to im­ple­ment the ban, which will ap­ply to apart­ments and in­door com­mon ar­eas as well as out­side ar­eas within 25 feet of hous­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices.

Cas­tro stressed the dan­gers of sec­ond­hand smoke for chil­dren, say­ing, “Every child de­serves to grow up in a safe, healthy home, free from harm­ful sec­ond­hand cig­a­rette smoke.”

Hous­ing au­thor­i­ties in sev­eral cities in­clud­ing Bos­ton, Seat­tle, Syra­cuse and San An­to­nio al­ready ban smok­ing in apart­ments, but the New York City Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, the na­tion’s largest with more than 400,000 res­i­dents, cur­rently pro­hibits smok­ing only in com­mon ar­eas, such as lob­bies and hall­ways.

Re­ac­tions to the im­pend­ing ban were mixed at the Chelsea-El­liot Houses and the Ful­ton Houses, both in Man­hat­tan’s Chelsea sec­tion.

Smoke-free liv­ing can’t come soon enough for Aurea Martinez, 83, who nei­ther smokes nor al­lows any­one to smoke in her apart­ment. “I’m against the peo­ple that smoke,” Martinez said. “It’s not good for my health.”

But Jose Ro­driguez said stress drives hous­ing au­thor­ity tenants to smoke.

“I just smoke ’cause right now I’m look­ing for work,” said the 46-year-old Ro­driguez, hold­ing an un­lit cig­a­rette as he ex­ited his build­ing.

Ro­driguez said he smokes out­side but some of his neigh­bors smoke in their apart­ments. “This is the only thing that calms them down,” he said. “Do you want them to buy a bot­tle and start drink­ing?”

Of­fi­cials at pub­lic hous­ing agen­cies that al­ready ban smok­ing said res­i­dents have ad­justed.

Bill Sim­mons, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Syra­cuse Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, said the agency spent two years ed­u­cat­ing tenants about the city’s smok­ing ban be­fore im­ple­ment­ing it last year.

Sim­mons said that while some tenants “felt their rights were be­ing vi­o­lated,” there have been few prob­lems since the ban went into ef­fect. “Things have worked out well,” he said. “It’s been good.”

The Seat­tle Hous­ing Au­thor­ity banned smok­ing in 2012 after ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion with res­i­dents, agency spokes­woman Kerry Cough­lin said. “Peo­ple are used to it now,” she said. “So many places don’t al­low smok­ing.”

The San An­to­nio Hous­ing Au­thor­ity also banned smok­ing in 2012 after sur­veys showed 80 per­cent of res­i­dents fa­vored the ban, spokes­woman Rosario Neaves said.

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