On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new requirement to make public housing smoke-free. Peggy Rice, Executive Director of Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority (PMHA) said they have been working on this for about a year, but questions it becoming a national priority.
According to HUD, the new rule will provide resources and support to more than 3,100 Public Housing Agencies to implement required smoke-free policies over the next 18 months.
Rice said HUD had asked for public housing authorities to voluntarily go smoke-free, but PMHA resisted.
“If it’s going to become mandatory we’ll have no choice but to comply . If I have to go smoke-free in order to house people I’ll do it, not because we want to, but to keep the(federal housing funds) assistance in the community,” Rices said.
She said there are bigger issues that face communities and public housing authorities around the country that should be the priority, such as poverty, homelessness, drug abuse and misuse issues and a number of other things.
“It’s really hard to put smoking at the top of your priority list,” Rice said. “It’s a very altruistic view, because if everybody across the country could stop smoking we would all be healthier, but with all of the problems we have in this world, you (HUD) want to focus on that.”
She said with all the issues communities around the nation are struggling to find answers to, going smoke-free should not be a priority.
“It’s very hard to get behind something people are legally allowed to do and they want us to eliminate them from our property, really,” Rice said.
She said going smoke-free is a great goal to have.
“This is a huge health issue, but if you’ve got the habit, knowing about it and quitting are two very different issues,” Rice said.
Once HUD communicates the mandatory policy change, Rice said PMHA will comply and work with community partners to inform PMHA residents about the new policy.
According to HUD, Once fully implemented, the smoke-free rule announced today would expand the impact to more than 940,000 public housing units, including more than 500,000 units inhabited by elderly residents and 760,000 children living in public housing.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro in a released statement. “HUD’s smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities. By working collaboratively with public housing agencies, HUD’s rule will create healthier homes for all of our families and prevent devastating and costly smoking-related fires.”
For more information about the new HUD ruling visit hud.gov and for more information about PMHA visit www.pmha.us.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101 ext. 1933 or @WayneAllenPDT on Twitter