BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Tobacco fans living in public housing might be smoking their last cigarettes as the federal government has proposed a ban on smoking in public housing, including both the lobbies and the apartments themselves.
According to the report, the government promises surprising cost savings, but the methods presented in the much-cited paper offered in support are way too fuzzy to present any solid evidence to rely on. So even though it’s difficult to assess the kind of money that we’ll save if the proposal goes through, the federal government is relentless in pushing it.
The question people are obviously asking is how this ban will be enforced – it’s not enough to ban smoking and expect people to stop a lifetime habit just like that. Those fantastic cost savings won’t materialize if the smokers keep puffing away in the privacy of their apartments.
Some versions of these bans have already been implemented on a local level, but the evidence supporting their existence is still scarce. One of the few results assessed in a study come from Portland, where two thirds of the residents were not complying to the ban even five months after the implementation.
What’s interesting is that the CDC study – the basis of the proposal – is heavily relying on data collected from multi-unit housing, which is a fancy name for any kind of apartment building, not specifically public housing. But public housing is certainly different from the usual apartment tower – firstly, the tenants are less inclined to pay fines, if it comes to that.
Negotiating evictions will also be problematic, even if it’s the ultimate penalty the housing authority can exercise when someone persistently breaks the rules. Bottom line is: Are the authorities really going to evict public housing tenants who will keep smoking in their apartments?
The people living in public housing are the ones who have few financial resources by definition: single parents, the disabled, and the elderly. If it comes to eviction, where is the federal government send them to? It’s not about being moral – it’s about being realistic: the question is whether such measures will be implemented.
According to HUD Secretary Julian Castro, tenants who smoke won’t necessarily be evicted. The prohibition will be applicable only to tenant leases, and fines will be the same as those for other nuisance violations.
But if the authorities aren’t willing to evict, how will tenants know they really have to be compliant – especially when it comes to those who have smoked for half of their lives?
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