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Public-Housing Agencies Crack Down on Lighting Up

An article in this week’s issue of Seven Days titled “Public-Housing Agencies Crack Down on Lighting Up” talks about recent attempts to ban smoking in Vermont’s public-housing properties. While smoking bans in many places are nothing new, there have been few attempts to ban smoking in public-housing due to hesitation over preventing residents to engage in a legal activity within their own residence. Those who moved into the properties prior to recent bans with the the understanding that they could continue to smoke inside their homes are suddenly having that right taken away. From the article:

In 2010, the Burlington Housing Authority was the first public-housing agency in Vermont to ban smoking in its units. It was controversial at the time — one resident threatened to sue, though he eventually backed down — and, according to BHA executive director Paul Dettman, it still occasionally causes tension between administrators and residents. Many housing authorities agree that even when a nonsmoking law is in effect, it isn’t easy to enforce. Agencies don’t conduct unscheduled apartment inspections, and there aren’t a lot of sanctions that housing authorities can impose; they can only issue warnings or kick people out. “We have to catch people,” Dettman said. “I don’t doubt that some continue to smoke. The sad part is some of the folks in the worst condition physically will be the ones smoking up a storm.” After three warnings for smoking violations, the BHA starts the eviction process. (The WHA plans to adopt a similar policy.) So far, the BHA has evicted one resident and was in proceedings to evict another, but she died during the process. The BHA considered building a small outdoor smoking pavilion, but Dettman was concerned about handicap accessibility. The association also offered smoking-cessation programs to residents when it implemented the ban, Dettman recalled, but no one signed up. The ban has triggered an unintended consequence: Forced to smoke outside of BHA’s properties, many residents light up in a bus shelter on St. Paul Street during the winter, despite the city’s ban on smoking in bus shelters. “It’s having a negative impact on our community,” Dettman said. “People on the sidewalks or waiting for the bus have to go through a phalanx of smokers.”

To read the entire article click here.

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