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Millions of Americans could be banned from smoking in their own homes

And anyone who doesn’t comply could be evicted.

Public Housing Smoking Source: Associated Press

THE US FEDERAL government today announced a plan to ban smoking inside and out of all state-owned public housing – a proposal which has been met with a mixed reaction so far.

Some who complain of the effects of second-hand smoke were thrilled, but others, including some non-smokers, worried that it gives the government yet another reason to harass or even evict poor people for doing what would otherwise be a legal activity in the privacy of their own homes.

“I think it is completely bogus,” said Devante Barrett, a 24-year-old non-smoker who lives in the Elliot-Chelsea Houses in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood.

You might as well have us all chained up in bondage now.

Smoking is already banned in about 20 percent of the nation’s federally subsidized housing, the nationally-operated US equivalent of Ireland’s council housing.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants to extend that to the other 940,000 units around the country, in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami.

“I would not like that,” said chain-smoker Dana Jones, outside Bethel Towers, an apartment complex next to a church in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

And other residents wouldn’t like that either. But I would have to comply with it.

But her son said he tells her every day that she needs to stop, and Jones acknowledged that a federal ban would probably force her to finally abandon the habit.

Royal Visit Washington US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Source: Andrew Harnik/PA

HUD Secretary Julian Castro said a nationwide ban would protect more than 760,000 children and save about $153 million a year (€142 million) in health care costs, repairs and preventable fires.

America’s Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, added:

Everyone — no matter where they live — deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy, smoke-free home. There is no safe level of second-hand smoke.

The rule would ban lit tobacco products — cigarettes, cigars or pipes — in all residences, indoor common areas and administrative offices.

Smoking would also be prohibited outdoors within 25 feet of buildings. Electronic cigarettes would not be subject to the ban.

The public now has 60 days to comment, and the ban would take effect 18 months after the rule is finalised.

“The clock starts today,” said Ed Cabrera, a HUD spokesman in San Francisco.

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Cigarette Smoking Source: Associated Press

He said residents will be asked for their input as officials figure out how to enforce the rule, looking to see what’s worked in the 60 percent of public housing in California where smoking is already banned.

The policy will probably become part of each lease agreement, and enforcement will depend largely on complaints by other residents, Cabrera said.

Tenants who don’t comply and continue to smoke could face possible eviction.
One thing that we’ve stressed is that we’re not targeting residents as a way to get them to quit smoking. We just want to make our properties smoke-free so they’re safer for everyone.

It’s all too much for Luis Torres, 64, who said he’s lived in New York public housing for 44 years.

He’s been ticketed for smoking in the hallway, which is already illegal, and said he doesn’t smoke in his apartment because his son has asthma.

He’s particularly upset that the ban would apply inside people’s homes.

That’s private. You can do everything you want in your apartment. Not what the government says. If you get sex with your wife, they’re going to check your sex too? No way.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

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