All public housing in Missouri is now smoke-free.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the policy change in November 2016, mandating the facilities prohibit smoking by July 30 of this year.
The deadline went into effect on Monday for all public-housing facilities in Missouri. Cheryl Lovell, the executive director for the St. Louis Housing Authority, said the news has been met with mixed reactions from residents living in public housing in St. Louis.
“People that have health problems or allergies to smoke, and if you’re smoking in a building and it penetrates through your unit, they are very happy that we’ve adopted this policy,” Lovell said. “There are some people that are very unhappy.”
Roughly 31,000 Missourians live in public housing. Plesetta Clayton, the director of health promotions for the American Lung Association in Missouri, said the change was needed.
“People who have compromised health — children with asthma, adults with chronic health conditions and the elderly who may have COPD — smoking and secondhand smoke is trigger for those conditions,” Clayton said.
According to the American Lung Association, nearly 34 percent of adults living in public housing in Missouri smoke. Clayton said that’s more than double the smoking rate for the general population.
“People who smoke in their apartment, whether they know that or not, the smoke migrates from unit to unit,” Clayton said. “So although you think you have a wall separating yourself from other people, that smoke can travel through electrical outlets, through cracks in the walls, through windows that are kind of cracked, through the ventilation system.”
The rule includes the use of tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and hookahs.
Lovell said residents living in the city’s public housing altered their lease agreements in January to meet the policy. She said the authority is working with residents to make sure they understand the rules, but she said they have put their own policies into place.
“The first violation is probably just a warning and a referral to some smoking-cessation program,” Lovell said. “The second one is a little stronger warning with more referrals to smoking cessation. Eventually, if you continue to ignore the clause in your lease, the eventual consequence is of course your lease is terminated.”
The new policy prohibits smoking inside buildings, individual units and complexes and extends smoke-free zones to 25 feet outside of the buildings. The housing authority, with the help of the American Lung Association, is offering free cessation-support services to help residents kick the habit. The services are part of the Smoke-free Public Housing Initiative, which is funded by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation.
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