FWHA to Go Smoke-Free

By Max Resnik

November 1, 2012 Updated Nov 1, 2012 at 6:34 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – The Fort Wayne Housing Authority dropped off packets of information to their residents informing them to its new smoke-free policy, which takes shape January 1, 2013.

The packet also contains an addendum that each resident must sign, which will be added to their existing leases and says the resident will abide by the new policy. Failure to adhere to the policy could result in lease termination.

The packet also contains educational materials about smoking including the health effects of secondhand smoke, youth exposure to secondhand smoke and a list of meeting times for residents at various FWHA locations to discuss the smoke-free policy.

Miami Place resident Vickie L. White, who has been a resident there for 10 years, says the new policy is stripping the rights of residents in FWHA.

"I pay my rent. I take care of my property. I have the prettiest flower beds out here. I take care of my home, and I'm on one foot hopping and they're wanting me to—they're going to want me to move. I don't think it's right," White says.

FWHA Executive Director Maynard Scales says that in addition to the obvious health risks associated with smoking, Scales says the risk for fires will decrease once the smoking ban begins.

“Smoking is an important source for fires in multi-family buildings. Twenty-five percent of the multi-family fires that we've had are because people were smoking. A significant amount of people have died because of that."

Cynthia Coleman lives across the street from White at Miami Place. She moved into her apartment in March, which is close to when she stopped smoking. Coleman says she, too, used to believe that because she paid her bills that she should be able to smoke in her apartment. That sentiment, however, has changed.

"You always figured since you're paying your rent, you should be able to smoke where you want, you know, where you pay your rent at. But I don't feel that way now."

Coleman says she understands the ban and believes it is for her safety and the safety of her neighbors.

"It's not so taking your rights away. I realize that it's your safety they're really concerned about, you know, and other people's safety."

Scales says the approach to cracking down on the ban will begin with self-policing and relying on residents to report neighbors who violate the smoke-free policy. He says residents who knowingly disobey the policy and refuse to quit are the residents who could face lease termination. In the beginning, Scales says the approach will be “soft-handed.”

Prior to cracking down, educational opportunities will be available for FWHA residents in conjunction with Tobacco Free Allen County, the American Lung Association and the Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health.

“We're going to have smoking cessation classes in accessible locations right in their buildings, for example. We're even providing financial resources to assist them as well as our employees,” Scales says.

Common smoking cessation medications, gums and patches will also be made available to the residents trying to quit.

Scales says FWHA will be the second smoke-free unit in the state. The first was in Kokomo. Scales says at least 20 percent of U.S. Housing and Urban Development properties have become smoke-free environments.

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