Alaska aims to ban smoking in public housing by spring
Updated 8:33 am, Friday, December 2, 2016
BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — The federal government is giving public housing agencies nationwide 18 months to implement a ban on smoking, but the state of Alaska is looking to crack down on tobacco much sooner.
Cathy Stone, the director of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, said the state's ban on smoking in public housing developments could take effect as soon as "April or May, when it's a little warmer and people can adjust to the requirement that they have to go outside to smoke."
"So it was just very ironic that this announcement came out on the same day we were having a board meeting and advising our board that in January we would come out with our own policy," Stone said.
The federal ban applies to lit tobacco products such as cigarettes, pipes, and cigars in all living units. The state is also considering eliminating electronic cigarettes.
Under Alaska's draft policy, residents would receive mailed notice of the smoking change and are allowed to submit feedback. Residents would then sign a lease agreement regarding the new rule. If caught violating the rule, they would receive several warnings before an eviction process starts.
Stone said the state corporation, which operates public housing throughout Alaska, has received overwhelming support from residents on the proposed rule.
"It's actually been requested by multiple residents," Stone said. "We've done two surveys of residents, and the majority did not want to have smoking in units. The majority of the smokers even said they thought we shouldn't allow smoking in the units."
Stone said the ban would prevent people from being exposed to secondhand smoke and save the state money.
"It's very expensive to turn a unit once someone's been smoking in it. Sometimes you have to replace the carpet," Stone said. You have to paint the wall multiple times."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the smoke-free policy will save housing agencies nationwide $153 million every year in repairs, preventable fires and health care costs.
Alaska public housing officials are looking to offer assistance to help people quit smoking when the ban takes effect.
Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org