Housing authority discusses smoking ban

Published 8:29 am Thursday, March 16, 2017

Federal regulations underway to require bans at all housing authorities in the nation

A smoking ban is on the way to all buildings operated by the Housing Authority of Danville — but no timeline has been set on when the ban will be established.

The move is due to a Feb. 15, 2017, notice issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development alerting all housing authorities to design and implement a policy barring the use of prohibited tobacco products in all public housing buildings, and within 25 feet of the outside of those buildings.

Housing Authority of Danville board members discussed the matter with Director Tim Kitts during Wednesday’s meeting.

A slew of questions came forward, such as how it would be enforced and whether or not structures or specific areas for smokers would have to be constructed.

Member J.H. Atkins questioned if the ban would create an “exodus” from public housing, calling that the “biggest issue” for him regarding the ban.

“A (smoking ban) getting to be widely acceptable in our community … this takes it farther,” he said.

Atkins also asked, regarding enforcement, if a person would have to be witnessed in the act of smoking inside a structure to be in violation, or would seeing and smelling smoke inside the building be enough.

“This is not an easy subject,” said Vice-Chairwoman Ann Young.

“It’s an easy subject, really, but one that people come out on all sides of,” Atkins said.

Kitts will be attending the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association conference in May; the smoking ban is one of the topics to be discussed there.

Rachel White, former director and acting secretary for the board, said it “might be a good road trip” to visit other agencies who have gone smoke-free, and speak with their boards.

In the meantime, the board said, it will be important to start letting people know about the upcoming ban, so they can be prepared.

Board attorney Hadden Dean said they could try to arrange for cessation programs to be offered.

“Anything we can do to make it easier,” Young said. “We need to start communicating that now.”

She said if they were able to arrange the cessation programs, perhaps they could offer those to staff members as well.

Kitts said he started putting things in the newsletter that goes out to residents.

Board members agreed they would include e-cigarettes in the ban, when it is implemented.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.

SO YOU KNOW

According to the newsletter sent out to residents by Housing Authority of Danville Director Tim Kitts, the rule being encouraged by the Department of Housing and Urban Development is intended to improve indoor air quality, benefit the health of public housing residents and PHA staff, reduce the risk of fires and lower overall maintenance costs.