Smoking will be banned in federally funded public housing within 18 months, under new regulations unveiled yesterday by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro in a visit to Boston, where it all began.
Castro made the announcement at the Washington Beech housing development in Roslindale, operated by the Boston Housing Authority, which was the first public housing authority in Massachusetts to institute a smoke-free policy at all of its developments in 2012.
The new federal rule would prohibit lit tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars and pipes from all U.S. public housing units, indoor common areas and offices, and outdoor areas within 25 feet of the developments.
“By working collaboratively with public housing agencies, HUD’s rule will create healthier homes for all of our families and prevent devastating and costly smoking-related fires,” Castro said.
More than 228,000 U.S. public housing units already are smoke-free. Once implemented, the new rule would affect 940,000-plus units.
“(HUD) chose to come here because we were the first really large housing authority in the nation to go smoke-free,” said Kate Bennett, the BHA’s deputy administrator for planning and sustainability. “It’s worked really well. Enforcement is always an issue, and we really have to stay on top of that, but I think at this point the policy is well-understood.”
The BHA will have to tweak its rules — which ban smoking inside its buildings and within 15 feet outside — to match the federal regulations.
“We’ve never evicted anybody for this,” Bennett said. “We have a stepped enforcement procedure that on paper can result in fines and eventually eviction, but we’ve never gotten that far with any of the cases.”
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