Smoking will be banned in all public housing across the U.S. starting July 31. Local residents of Anniston Housing Authority, however, feel the ban takes away from their individual freedoms.
“I feel like it is trying to control people,” said Kiesha Goggins. “It’s already public housing to where they can just come in whenever they want. It’s taking away another freedom.”
In 2016, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, under President Barack Obama, announced the smoking ban.
According to the new smoke-free policy, residents cannot smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes in any public housing unit, common area or within 25 feet of public housing property.
Justin Lofton, another resident in Anniston public housing, said as a smoker himself, there isn’t anything like smoking in his own home.
“I feel like that’s messed up,” Lofton said. “At the end of the day, I feel like everybody is paying their rent, so they should be able to do anything they want to in their house.”
Safety was another major concern for residents at Anniston Housing Authority.
“Most people that smoke, they want to smoke in a place where they feel safe,” Lofton said.
One other resident, who was hesitant to give her full name out of safety concerns, also reiterated the potential threat to smokers safety when they are forced to smoke outside of their house.
“There’s too much stuff going on down here,” said a woman who referred to herself as Chantell. “You could be out there smoking a cigarette and somebody that you don’t like come up, smoking a cigarette too and something happen.”
Chantell said several people in the neighborhood have issues with one another.
“It’s a lot of people that’s beefing and all that, you know, right now,” Chantell said. She described a potential situation where one woman could be smoking outside and someone who dislikes her might attempt to harm her.
“She gotta run to her house. It ain’t helping nothing,” Chantell said.
Each resident questioned how the housing authority would enforce the smoking ban.
“It’ll be kind of hard to enforce it, unless they put some type of detection in the house which is taking away a freedom, privacy in the home,” Goggins said.
“They will try to, but I don’t think it’s going to work,” Chantell said.
Brian Sullivan, spokesperson for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said several housing authorities across the U.S. have successfully banned smoking, but the process of enforcement lies solely with the management of the local public housing.
“They’re not going to kick somebody out right away,” he said. “But it’s up to them if they act more with the carrot or the stick.”
Attempts to contact Sonny McMahand, executive director of Anniston Housing Authority, on Friday were unsuccessful.
Sullivan encourages the local housing authorities to help their residents through the process of becoming a smoke-free environment.
“The most successful will support their residents in their transition, such as resources to help them quit,” he said.
He said the housing authorities should give their residents plenty of notice about the upcoming change.
“Like anything, you want to be told sooner rather than later,” he said.
Even with the support, he said it is expected that some residents will be unhappy with the ban.
“Of course long-time smokers don’t want to be told they can’t smoke in their home,” he said.
Sullivan said the driving force behind the ban was public health and saving money.
“We all know what smoking does to people,” he said. “But imagine the cost associated with public housing authorities.”
Speaking ofSullivan referred to the cost of renovating a unit that once housed a smoker.
“It’s significantly higher than if there wasn’t a smoker there,” he said. “Public money has to be used to turn that unit over.”