Like their counterparts in several communities around the region, residents of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority are divided over a new smoking ban. The ban comes before a change in federal policy.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last November introduced a proposed rule now being considered to ban smoking in housing authorities nationwide. The ban, which would come into play 18 months after finalization, is a big issue for public housing agencies across the country. The New York City Housing authority, the country’s largest, is seeking to delay the ban for as long as three years.
Paul Feldman, Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, said he made the decision to implement the smoking ban before he would be required to.
“It’s just a matter of time before we’re required to do it anyway, but there was too many positive reasons to implement one,” said Feldman.
Feldman discussed the health threats associated with second-hand smoke. He also mentioned the apartment fire in Schenectady one year ago that killed four and has been blamed on a burning cigarette.
“The reasons to go forward with this are kind of irrefutable,” said Feldman.
The smoking ban will take effect in May. It would require all residents to smoke outside in designated areas.
According to a recent survey from the housing authority, a majority of residents, about 64 percent, say they’re happy with the change — including resident Bob O’Hara.
“Let ‘em go outside. Or pick a designated room for them to smoke in. A lot of places have that too.”
Others find the new rule an invasion of privacy. One resident named Alex said she understands neighbors’ concerns over odor and second-hand smoke, but says residents should be able to smoke in their own living space.
“Who are you to tell them they can’t smoke in their own apartment, the ones who are smokers? I don’t think it’s fair. And, like I said, if it reeks like cigarettes leave your window open. I just don’t think it’s right.”
The division is not strictly between smokers and non-smokers. Ruth Thomas is a lifelong smoker but said she understands that times are changing. Thomas said she has tried to quit before, but is willing to try again under the new circumstances.
“It’s going to be hard but I’m gonna try. All I can do is try," said Thomas.