Secondhand smoke won't bother Housing Authority of the City of Freeport residents anymore. All HACF property and units are proposed to become smoke-free, effective June 1. Smokers will be required not to smoke in their apartments or the buildings and to be at least 15 feet from HACF entrances.
HACF's board of directors unanimously approved the smoke-free policy in November to be added in the proposed modifications to the Lease, HACF Executive Director Larry Williams said.
Survey responses and encouragement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prompted the move. HUD issued a July 2009 directive, urging housing authorities to adopt a smoke-free policy, citing a 2006 U.S. Surgeon General report. Secondhand smoke, according to the report, kills 50,000 non-smokers in the United States annually.
In 2005, there were 32 housing authorities with smoking bans in effect. It's estimated, by the end of 2011, there were 285—or 9 percent of housing authorities—with smoking bans, according to the Smoke-Free Environments Law Project director, who was quoted in a Dec. 17, 2011 New York Times story.
Of the 1 in 4 HACF households that responded, 35 percent of all respondents championed a "strong need" for a smoke-free policy.
An additional 23 percent of those responding felt there was a "strong need" for some type of policy, while 14 percent believed no new policy was necessary. With that said, more than 40 percent of respondents supported adding the policy to HACF's lease agreement.
Surveys were mailed to all residents on July 13. HACF held resident meetings June 6 through 8, in order to educate residents about and encourage them to fill out the surveys, and again last week, to discuss the proposed policy.
HACF has made it clear that there is not a requirement to quit smoking. But, if someone wants to quit, they can contact HACF or the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES. Depending on interest, HACF will coordinate a Smoking Cessation class.
In addition to creating a healthier HACF, a smoke-free policy helps save money. For example, Williams said turning around vacant apartments—cleaning, etc.—would be less expensive.
Of course, there's the decrease in secondhand smoke-related health and damage risks for residents and employees. Williams noted a couple of fires at Mary Hosmer Apartments were smoking-related.
Williams believes the smoke-free policy will catch fire.
"You'll see more and more agencies follow suit," he said.