Smoking ban in public housing: here’s what you need to know

RICHMOND, Va. -- Smokers residing in public housing won't be able to spark a cigarette in or near their premise starting July 31.

The ban, implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that lit cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can only be smoked at least 25 feet away from public housing units -  but federally,  electronic cigarettes will still be permitted.

In Richmond however, prohibited tobacco products include all forms electronic cigarettes - defined as any electronic device that provides a vapor of liquid nicotine.

Public housing authorities were given more than two years to begin implementing and enforcing the policy, announced two years ago by the HUD.

The new rule will affect more than 940,000 public housing units across the country, according to HUD. Through the agency’s voluntary policy and local initiatives, more than 228,000 public housing units were already smoke-free in 2016.

The federal ban will save public agencies an estimated $153 million every year in costs related to health care due to secondhand smoke, as well as repairs and losses from preventable fires, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Richmond:

Because the rule is a part of tenant's leases, residents of Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority communities must sign a lease addendum between July 20 and July 30.
While tenants who break the rule could be evicted, smoking on public housing premises is a civil violation, not a crime, and one violation is "not grounds for eviction," the agency said.

According to RRHA's lease addendum, a first breach of the rule may result in a fine not to exceed $100- but subsequent breaches of the rule may result in harsher punishments and eventual eviction.

The RRHA addendum states that the purpose of the rule is to mitigate: the irritation and known health effects of lit tobacco products, increased maintenance costs from the effects of lit tobacco products, increased fire risks associated with smoking indoors, and the higher costs of fire insurance for a non-smoke-free building.

Smoking Cessation Clinics: 

While RRHA reminds tenants that they do not have to quit smoking in order to continue living in public housing, they will be offering smoking cessation clinics on the following dates:

Tuesday,  August 7 through September 25 @ 2 p.m. – 4 p.m., Hillside, 1500 Hardwood Street Richmond, VA 23234
Wednesday, August 8 through September 26  @ 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.,  Fourth Avenue Elderly Building, 1611 4th Ave Richmond, VA 23222
Wednesday, August 15 – October 3 @ 5:00 p.m., HCVP and TSO administrative offices 918 Chamberlayne Ave Richmond, Virginia, 23220