Neighbors react to national ban on cigarette smoking in public housing

VIDEO: Neighbors react to national ban on cigarette smoking in public housing

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - People living in public housing in the Chattahoochee Valley and across the country are no longer allowed to smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products while on the properties.

Signs, posted on the streets of Wilson Homes near Veterans Parkway and River Road, highlight the Columbus Housing Authority's lead in implementing the nationwide smoking ban approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Mother Ursula Pritchett said while she is always concerned about her kids' health, she feels the rule may be a little too intrusive.

"As long as they're smoking outside, I guess... as long as they're not in the house, or it's around their children," Pritchett said. "It shouldn't be an issue, in my eyes, but I don't smoke."

Starting Tuesday, July 31, HUD is prohibiting any public housing resident from using tobacco products that require the use of a lighter - including cigarettes, cigars or pipes - while in their homes, common areas, or property offices.

The punishments for smoking range from a warning, a $50 fine, or the final punishment - having a tenant's lease terminated while paying a $250 cleaning fee.

According to HUD, 1.3 million households live in public housing across the country.

Pritchett and other neighbors said while the move is positive for children's health, the new rule might unfairly punish those who want to smoke outside of their homes.

"A lot of people like to smoke cigarettes. It's a habit for them," she said, "so they can't just stop smoking cigarettes. Then, there would probably be an issue if they get caught smoking cigarettes - then there's the fine, paying money, or being put out...but, to each his own."

A source with the Phenix City Housing Authority told News Leader 9, residents will also not be allowed to smoke these products out on their porches, adding that HUD's ban requires a person to smoke at least 25 feet away from a building on the property.

The same source said tenants have been brought into housing offices to sign an addendum on their leases, stipulating they will follow HUD's latest policy.

Local and federal officials cite health concerns for residents and costs dealing with maintenance and fire repair as factors that led to HUD's final decision.

The smoking ban will not apply to chewing tobacco or electronic cigarettes. HUD also states that banning smoking from public housing facilities will save an estimated $497 million in health care costs for families and maintenance costs for housing authorities.

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