WASHINGTON, D. C. – A new rule will go into effect February 3, 2017 which will require public housing agencies (PHA) to become compliant with a smoke free policy within 18 months.
The Federal Register provides detailed information concerning this policy. According to the Federal Register, the smoke free policy will ban the use of tobacco products in all public housing living units, indoor commons areas, office buildings.
The smoke free policy will also include areas outside public housing up to 25 feet from the public housing and administrative office buildings. The Federal Register explains that the purpose of the rule, “improve air quality in the housing; benefits the health of public housing residents, visitors, and PHA staff; reduces the risk of catastrophic fires; and lowers overall maintenance costs.”
The rule will require PHA administration to take on extra duties. The Federal Register states, “PHAs are required to document their smoke- free policies in their PHA plans, a process which requires residential engagement and public meetings.” Tenants must also be informed of the policy in their lease agreements.
Enforcement of the rule will also include additional costs. However, the Federal Register explains that the benefits will out- weigh the costs. According to the Federal Register, “the costs to PHAs of implementing smoke- free policies may include training, administrative, legal and enforcement costs…Infrastructure already exists for the enforcement of lease violations and violations of the smoke free policy would constitute a lease violation. Total recurring costs to PHAs are expected to be $7.7 million, although they may be higher in the first few years of implementation, given the necessity of establishing designated smoking areas (a total of $30.2 million in the first year.”
However, benefits are expected to out- weigh these costs. The Federal Register explains this stating, “Over 700,000 units would be affected by this rule and their non- smoking residents would have the potential to experience health benefits from a reduction in expose to second hand smoke. PHAs will also benefit from a reduction of damage caused by smoking, and residents and PHAs both gain from seeing a reduction injuries, deaths, and property damage from fires caused by prohibited tobacco products.”
The Federal Register explains that the enforcement of this rule is not to encourage people to move out of public housing, but rather, to provide a safe housing environment for all residents. “This policy is not intended to force people out of public housing, but instead to offer safe, decent and sanitary housing for all populations. HUD is not requiring any PHA to build a designated smoking area, but to work with residents to address any difficulties they encounter. HUD understands that PHAs only have the authority to implement smoke- free policies in buildings and office space they own,” the Federal Register states.
To learn more about this new rule visit https://www.federalregister.gov.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)