PHA to implement smoke-free rule

Published 1:57 pm Friday, June 15, 2018

Under government mandate, the Middlesboro Housing Authority will be implementing a smoke-free housing policy. According to the official documentation summary, the ruling requires each public housing agency (PHA) administering public housing to execute a smoke-free policy no later than 18 months after the final ruling.

The smoke-free policy includes banning use of tobacco products in all public housing living units, indoor common areas and in PHA office buildings. The policy also includes outdoor areas up to 25 feet from public housing and administrative offices. The policy must be effective no later than July 31, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD states the purpose of this ruling is to improve indoor air quality, improve the health of the residents, visitors and the PHA staff. It’s also meant to reduce the risk of fires and lower overall maintenance costs due to the damage long-term smoking can cause in living areas.

Executive Director of the Middlesboro Housing Authority Randy Earle stated they have received some complaints regarding the new rule. He set up a meeting with residents for June 27 to discuss the policy.

“It’s up to us if we’re going to build a designated smoking area. To build a designated smoking area is quite expensive, and to be honest we’re trying to see how this plays out before we build these areas,” said Earle. “Our policy has to address all the way up to eviction. We have a really good board of directors, and we’ve been looking at it from a human right and human-interest point of view.

“The very last thing we want to do is evict a family for smoking. We’re going to see how the HUD guidelines play out and how we’re penalized if we don’t enforce it 100 percent according to the rules and regulations. We don’t want concentration camps, we want places for low income people to have the same rights as everybody else,” said Earle.