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Columbia Housing Authority considers banning smoking

Columbia Housing Authority is asking for public comment about a new smoke-free policy for its units.  Residents living in public housing units have sixty days to give their opinion on a policy that would ban smoking inside the public housing buildings.

The Housing Authority released a statement November 3rd with their plans for the new policy. Columbia Housing Authority will be hosting meetings at every public housing location for public comment until the target date to start the policy, which is May 1st.

Lee Radtke is the director of public housing for the Housing Authority and says the new policy was proposed for three reasons. First, it costs the Housing Authority about four times more to restore the unit of a smoker than of a non-smoker. Second, the reduction fire fatalities. Radtke says although the most common type of fire are kitchen fires the most common reason for fatalities in residential fires are cigarette related fires. Third, the health implications of second hand smoke.  

“Science has now shown pretty conclusively that persons living in attached multifamily housing are exposed to high levels of second hand smoke whether they smoke themselves or their neighbors smoke in their units,” said Radtke.

Radtke said there are some smokers who weren’t happy about the possibility of having a smoke-free policy. She said some smokers felt that their civil rights are being taken away even though smokers are not a protected group under fair housing law. She said the Housing Authority does not want people to stop smoking but rather smoke outside of housing units. The Housing Authority is inviting residents to help create the policy and that the idea for a new policy has been received well by non-smoking residents so far.

“Even though we have people who don’t go out and buy cigarettes and smoke them because of the way our housing is constructed basically everybody’s a smoker whether they want to be or not. So a lot of the non-smokers are very happy about it,” Radtke said.

Radtke said she doesn’t think this policy will lower the public housing occupancy because hundreds of public housing agencies that have gone smoke-free and haven’t had an issue with it.

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