Residents upset about public housing smoking ban

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In July of 2012 an apartment fire forced residents to evacuate the Brush Creek Apartments in Kansas City. Smoking caused the fire.

"A smoker dropped a cigarette, his unit caught on fire and that caused a lot of problems for a lot of people,” Edwin Lowndes said, executive director for the Housing Authority of Kansas City.

Lowndes said the fire displaced more than eight residents and cost the Housing Authority $100,000. Now, on July 1, 2014, all Housing Authority properties must be smoke-free.

"We found that a smoker, his smoke does not stay in his unit or in the building, it goes and affects everywhere, everyone in the entire building," Lowndes said.

In November 2012, HAKC met with the Mid-America Regional Council of Kansas City and the Health
Department to survey residents and facilitate a public forum on smoke-free housing.

About 45 percent of residents in HAKC properties are smokers with a large percentage of respiratory issues including asthma. This smoking ban would affect about 1,700 households and it’s not sitting well with many of those residents.

"I don't think it's realistic, I don't think it's going to work. How are you going to make people stop smoking in their homes?” Claude Haight said, a longtime smoker and resident of Brush Creek Apartments.

"This is the United States, it’s supposed to be free. We should be able to do what you want to do not just tell you don't smoke in your own house, that's ridiculous," resident Bernard Dickerson said.

But the landlords say they have a right to modify the rules— rules that will encourage residents to stay safe and healthy.

"As managers of rental property, we can set reasonable terms and conditions of living in your apartment and because of the health issues, we made that decision that we're going to go smoke-free," Lowndes said.

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