The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says it imposed a ban on smoking in public housing because of concerns over secondhand smoke. Public housing authorities nationwide were ordered to have new rules in place by July 31.
Here in Houston, smoking in public housing is already prohibited. Donna Dixon with the Houston Housing Authority said HUD had been talking about a ban for about a decade, so they decided to impose their own in 2014.
When new tenants move into public housing they are informed of the rule.
“They have to sign a lease addendum stating that they know that smoking is not allowed in the unit or in the buildings,” explained Dixon. “It is part of the lease and it is part of enforcement.”
And while the health issues caused by secondhand smoke are a big concern, Dixon added there's also what's known as third-hand smoke.
“If you live next door to someone you're going to have smoke that drifts through the vents and through the walls and under the doors,” said Dixon.
As for other benefits, Dixon said apartments stay in better condition if no one has been smoking inside. They have also seen their insurance rates drop.
“Housing authorities all over the country, they're going to save on money for turnovers in the unit, fires in the unit,” Dixon told Houston Public Media.
So how is the public housing smoking ban enforced locally?
“We haven't had to put anybody out,” said Dixon. “This is largely self-enforcing and if a resident complains we do have to investigate.”
The rules still allow people to smoke on public housing property, but they have to go at least 25 feet away from any buildings.
The public housing authority in Austin also banned smoking in 2015.