Smoke-free policy to hit public housing this July

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A new HUD requirement means changes for how people live in public housing across the CSRA.  People who smoke may want to kick the habit starting now. After July 1, no one will be able to light up inside or right outside public housing.

HUD wants Public Housing Authorities to implement smoke-free policies no later than July 31, 2018.  The change, according to HUD, comes due to the increased risk of fire, maintenance costs and the known health effects of secondhand smoke.

Augusta Housing Authority’s Resident Services Director Harden Oldfield told us the biggest problem will be changing the habit.

“Let’s just plain say it. It’s an addiction,” said Oldfield.

It’s a habit about 15 percent of U.S. adults deal with, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But the federal government wants to help those living in subsidized housing live a healthier habit.  The Smoke-Free Policy will apply to employees, household members, guests and service persons too.

Deputy Executive Director Douglas Freeman added, “[It’s about] Obviously the health benefits of not smoking. But there is also a safety factor that generally it is a little safer to not have smoking inside residential properties as well as a reduced maintenance cost when we turn over units.”

HUD defines smoking as inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or other prohibited tobacco product in any manner or any form.  Douglas Freeman told NewsChannel 6 no smoking will be allowed within 25 feet of public housing and administrative office buildings either. But the policy will not go in effect without a little help for the tobacco dependent.

“We’re going to work with the Medical College of Georgia to offer some awareness events in each one of our developments as well as one here for our employees,” Oldfield said of the Georgia Cancer Center’s c-CARE Program.  It will offer free Tobacco Cessation Services.

Rules can be violated. But Freeman said since the addiction might be hard, the first violation comes with just a warning. But there will be a $10 and $25 fine for the next two violations. The fourth one is a 30-day lease termination.

“Most of it will be self-policing,” Freeman said, noting that he expects some residents will report others. “We’re not going to be going out searching for people to try to catch them in the act of smoking.”

Along with no tobacco, no water pipes, hookah or e-cigarettes will be allowed either.

Freeman added residents received a letter about the change and the policy last March.  It required a signature of the resident.

Residents in need of smoking cessation services can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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