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Locals React to National Public Housing Smoking Ban

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Smoking is no longer allowed in public housing nationwide. That’s according to a new policy set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some residents from a local public housing agency where smoking is already banned say it’s beneficial.

“I’d rather smoke where ever I want,” said Rockford Resident Damein Dragon, who can’t.  He hasn’t been able to in the past five years he’s lived at a Winnebago County Public Housing Authority apartment.

“Our concern at the time was for the health of our residents,” said Executive Director at the Winnebago County Housing Authority Alain Zais.  “We have family housing and a lot of housing for seniors and disabled residents who have compromised health situations.”

Nine years ago, the Winnebago County Housing Authority put in place, what is now a national policy in public housing residencies.  The guidelines says residents can’t smoke on the property and must be at least 25-feet away from buildings.  “It’s a good thing and not hard to do,” said Zais.  “It shouldn’t be a deterrence to someone who wants to keep their right to smoke but also need affordable housing.”

HUD says this ban will reduce the risk of fires, lower property maintenance costs and promote healthier environments.

“I quit in October,” Public Housing Resident Elizabeth Yarbro.  “My chair won’t go out in the snow and you can’t smoke inside anymore.  It’s a great thing it really is.  We have children living in this building too.”

“We don’t have to repaint which is necessary or recarpet for someone moving in who is a non-smoker,” said Zais.  The WCHA  says enforcing it wasn’t an issue.  The housing authority asked residents for feedback on the ban.  Most agreed that it would be beneficial and for smokers who didn’t agree, there were smoking pavilions put up.

“They police it themselves really well,” said Zais.  “If someone is violating it, smoking in their unit, now because its non-smoking, people smell it right away and make us aware.”

The current smoking ban does not include electronic cigarettes, vaping or chewing tobacco.

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