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Oxford’s public housing communities to become smoke free

Beginning Aug. 1, residents and their guests in the Oxford Housing Authority’s four public housing communities will not be allowed to smoke inside or within 25 feet of a building.

These new restrictions were adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2017, and all public housing agencies nationwide were given until July 30, 2018, to comply and develop a non-smoking policy.

Per HUD, smoke-free policies reduce property maintenance costs, unit turnover time, and the risk of fires.

The smoke-free rule requires public housing agencies to implement a policy that prohibits the use of all lit tobacco products including water pipes (hookahs) inside all dwelling units, indoor common areas, and public housing agencies administrative office buildings.

The smoke-free policy also extends to 25 feet from all housing and administrative offices.

According to HUD smoke-free policies are legal.

“The policies do not violate residents privacy rights and do not discriminate against residents who smoke. Smoke-free policies are about where people smoke, not about whether they smoke,” states the HUD No Smoking Policy Guide Book. “Smoking is a public health issue, and smoke-free policies are not discriminatory because they do not prohibit anyone from renting a unit. They merely set rules for activities permitted on the property.”

Enforcement of the smoke-free policy is the responsibility of the OHA.

Teasha Sanders, head of occupancy for the Oxford Housing Authority, said OHA is working on the final aspects of the new policy.

“We are reaching out to residents for recommendations regarding the new policy,” Sanders said. “We are also looking at options to assist the residents through this process such as health education with discussions of the non-smoking policy, effects of second-hand smoke and other resources that will be beneficial.”

While the consequences for violating the new policy aren’t set in stone as of yet, most public housing authorities are using verbal and written warnings. The policy does allow for eviction after multiple violations; however, HUD suggests it be used only as a last resort.

“Our desire is not to evict anyone because we are here to provide housing assistance to those who need it,” Sanders said.

Residents were notified at the beginning of the month about the new policy. For more information, call OHA at 662-236-3645.