Posted: 01/06/16, 5:09 PM EST
TROY – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Juli├ín Castro joined Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in Alexandria, Virginia, recently to announce a proposed rule to make the nation’s public housing properties entirely smoke-free, but the Troy Housing Authority has already done that.
HUD’s proposed rule would require more than 3,100 public housing agencies across the country to implement smoke-free policies in their developments within 18 months of the final rule. All public housing authorities would have to create policies that would prohibit lit tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings.
The Troy Housing Authority launched a three-phase approach in March 2014 with the elimination of smoking in entrance ways and common areas of its properties. The second phase extended smoke-free zones to within 25 feet of the buildings, while Phase 3 banned smoking in all units. Authority officials said this was the only way to go about tackling this issue.
“Smoking inside units has been a past issue, with some older apartments that had constant smokers inside of it,” said Dan Crawley, the authority’s executive secretary. “It just becomes more to deal with, with having to then repaint the homes because of past smokers in units.”
Crawley said authority tenants have not complained much as the three phases were implemented.
“There always will be people who will complain but it really has been far and few so far here,” said Crawley.
The authority promoted and distributed information through its monthly newsletters about smoking cessation programs like the NY Smokers Quitline and The Butt Stops Here, a seven-week program held at a number of locations locally. The THA worked with the Capital District Smoke-Free Coalition and Smoke Free Housing NY on the initiative.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans each year, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. By reducing the public health risks associated with tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, the proposed smoke-free rule will enhance the effectiveness of HUD’s efforts to provide increased public health protection for residents of public housing. The rule will impact the more than 940,000 units that are currently not smoke-free, including more than 500,000 units inhabited by elderly households.
“We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially the elderly and children who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases,” said HUD Secretary Juli├ín Castro. “This proposed rule will help improve the health of more than 760,000 children and help public housing agencies save $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires.”
Troy Housing authority residents caught smoking would first be given a warning, then be ticketed and fined for subsequent violations. If residents continue to break the rule, they would then be evicted.
“We’re just trying to make this a smooth transition,” Crawley said. “We’re not looking to evict people; we are just trying to get people to follow these new rules.”
Nicholas Buonanno can be reached at 290-3941.