Local officials, residents react to smoke-free public housing pr - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Local officials, residents react to smoke-free public housing proposal

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - A federal proposal could force some smokers to snuff out or possibly move out. The change would force all public housing units to go smoke-free.

Thressa Greene, who lives in Eau Claire's Park Tower Apartments, is fuming about a rule change that could nip her smoking habits in the butt. “You can't just tell people to stop smoking. You can't do it,” Green said. “The more somebody says, “No' to me, the more I'm going to do it."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has proposed a rule that would ban lit tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars or pipes, in all public housing units. Keith Johnathan, the executive director of City of Eau Claire's Housing Authority, said he thinks the rule could include multifamily units like Park Tower. "If HUD says we have to prohibit smoking in our public housing units, then we will make that the rule."

The proposal would also make indoor common areas and administrative offices smoke-free. In addition, smoking would be banned outdoors within 25 feet of public housing and administrative office buildings."It would impact our 110 public housing units,” Johnathan said. “They are scattered sites, single families and duplexes."

Johnathan said the proposal could be a healthy move and a money saver. According to HUD, the change could save more than $150 million each year in health care costs, repairs and preventable fires. “Smoking is definitely confined to their apartments,” he said. “If I find that smoking is creating a problem with yellow walls, then yes, I can see where that's a hazard, that's a problem, but the tenant gets charged for that."

But, Greene argued if you pay rent, you should be entitled to live as you please. "I don't want anybody telling me when I'm in my place that I can't smoke."

While a final decision has yet to be made, city officials and residents wait with uncertainty. Johnathan said, “Smoking obviously is bad for people's health." Greene said, "If I choose to smoke in it, I choose to smoke in it."

Under the proposal, electronic cigarettes that emit vapor, but not smoke, would still be allowed. HUD will seek public comment for the next two months before drafting a final rule.

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