ACLU, public housing residents want to extinguish proposed smoking ban

Feds propose smoking ban in public housing
Published: Nov. 13, 2015 at 2:38 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 13, 2015 at 2:57 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The possible smoking ban inside and outside public housing has residents and the Louisiana ACLU fired up.

"They ain't going to evict me. I wish they'd try," Faubourg Lafitte resident Joyce Giles said.

"Well intentioned," Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman said. "But this is really bad policy because what's going to end up happening is a family gets evicted from housing because one member smokes. All it's going to do is increase homelessness."

Frustrations ignited after the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it wants to ban smoking inside its residences and 25 feet outside any of its building. HUD says the changes come after years of health studies and want housing agents must enforce the ban within the next 18 months for its 31-hundreds housing agencies nationwide.

The federal agency says breaking the smoke-free policy would fall under a lease violation, which could be grounds for eviction.  
"You can't put a person out their house because they smoke cigarettes," public housing resident Ruth Johnson said. "What are you going to do put a camera in the house and know when someone is smoking cigarettes in the house? How are you going to know they're smoking in the house? Like I said, who is going to enforce it?"

Though talks of the ban have many heated up, others feel the ban would be a blessing for those who do not smoke.

"A lot of kids stay in there and they can't have no choice but to be in the house. I think that's a good idea," Darren Claverie said.

"Remember public housing is not free," Esman argued. "Tenants in public housing pay."

Esman feels to ban something that's legal, like smoking a cigarette, could lead to a much bigger problem for HUD and communities the agency assists.

"You can imagine a scenario in which a grandmother has her family over and somebody lights up a cigarette in the apartment. So what are we going to do evict grandma and put her out on the street?" Esman asked.

In a statement, HUD admitted enforcement would be the biggest cost with this possible ban but did not say how much it would cost to enforce the ban.
The agency said it will save $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires.

HUD will take public comment for the next 60 days on the issue.

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