CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A smoking ban in public housing units coast to coast was first introduced back in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It will be enforced nationwide beginning July 31st.
An American Cancer Society study showed that a third of adults living in public housing are smokers compared to 15 percent of the general population.
Some hope this ban could lead to other bans aimed to make public housing safer.
“I’m a single mother, and when it comes to public housing, even though it’s hard for me to afford to live where we’re living now, I’m scared to look into public housing because of the living situation. If something as small as starting off with a ban of smoking then that gives us potential for more bans and more safety precautions,” said Ashley Baskins, a concerned citizen.
The ban began as a response to a study of the harm and costs of smoking in housing developments. Some of those costs include healthcare, as well as the cost of repairs from accidental fires.
It’s estimated the ban could save federal agencies about $153 million dollars.
Housing authorities across the country may be scrambling, trying to figure out just how they’re going to enforce the smoking ban that has to be put into effect on July 31st. The Housing Authority of the City of Charleston is not one of those scrambling, that’s because they actually implemented this law back in September of 2017. The Housing Authority of the City of Charleston has it’s Smoke-Free Enforcement Policy online.
“First we came up with a plan, an outreach plan to provide information to the residents. We took several months to host community meetings, we collaborated with DHEC,” said Melissa Maddox-Evans, General Counsel for the Housing Authority of the City of Charleston.
The plan the Charleston Housing Authority came up with was to rely heavily on their tenants to report any smoking they may see on the premises using a complaint form.
“We’re a management staff primarily, which means although we have access to our property 24/7 we’re not going to be physically on the property 24/7. So, if there’s information that we get from other residents about there being another resident smoking on the premises, we’re willing to receive the information and then investigate,” Maddox-Evans said.
Once a complaint is turned in, the tenant in question will be investigated and warned if they were smoking on the property. Tenants will get warnings for up to three violations. If there is a fourth violation, the tenant could be evicted.
Maddox-Evans says since the ban was implemented, residents have been very cooperative.
“You know, strangely enough we have not heard many complaints about the policy. When we initially rolled out the policy and informed residents that this is the direction HUD was going to, we actually received very good responses from the residents. We were prepared to receive all types of responses, so that was surprising,” Maddox-Evans said.