Proposal would ban smoking inside housing projects

RICHMOND, Va. -- A proposal by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would institute a "smoke free" policy inside all public housing buildings, including more than 4,000 residential units in Richmond.  The policy change, which has been discussed at both the national and local levels for several years, would prohibit "lit tobacco products" inside all living units and offices.

Smokers would have to stay at least 25-feet way from public housing buildings.

HUD officials said the policy change is aimed at improving the quality of life for residents through limiting second-hand smoke, reducing the risk of catastrophic house fires caused by indoor smoking, and lowing maintenance costs.

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA), which oversees more than 4,000 public housing units in city, said they were in the final stages of implementing their own "smoke free" buildings in certain communities before HUD's proposal.

Smoker George Brown, who has lived in Fairfield Court for several years, wondered how officials would enforce a policy where violators would be inside their own homes.

"I probably wouldn't even go outside to smoke a cigarette to tell you the truth," said Brown while mimicking opening a window and blowing smoke outside.

George Brown

RRHA officials said the enforcement question would be best handled by educating their residents on the policy and the health benefit that come with it.

“Encouraging people to buy into the process would be the best way to attack that," said Carol Jones-Gilbert, Chief Operating Officer for the RRHA.  "I think a lot of times people think about the dangers to the actual smoker, but there are also the dangers to people who don’t smoke.”

HUD officials said five housing authorities in Virginia already have smoke free policies in all their buildings or smoke free properties available to residents. None are in Central Virginia.

The proposal is only that for now.  A public comment period is open now through January 19th.  Officials said sometime after that HUD officials will decide whether or not they will institute the change.

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