Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2018

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Ban on smoking in public housing could be felt by Las Vegas residents

A federal ban on smoking in public housing went into effect this week and could impact nearly 7,300 Southern Nevadans living in such facilities, authorities said.

Under a U.S. Housing and Urban Development mandate, residents of public housing in the 2,751 units across Clark County will no longer be allowed to smoke within 25 feet of a residential building.

The rule was first recommended by the federal housing authority in 2009 and a mandate was finalized in 2015. HUD officials estimate the department will save $153 million annually in building restoration and repairs needed from indoor smoke damage as well as incidental fire costs.

“Smoking causes problems beyond the residents themselves,” HUD spokesman Ed Cabrera said. “It damages the buildings and there’s also a real risk of fire.”

Residents who violate the no-smoking rules are subject to three warnings per year before facing fines and possible evictions for the fourth offense and beyond, said Chad Williams of the Southern Nevada Housing Authority. E-cigarettes and vaping devices were not included in the ban and can still be used indoors. Marijuana, both for medical and recreational use, is banned in public housing.

A spokesman from the housing authority said the ban is included in contracts signed by new residents, and will be enforced by regular check-in from public housing staff as well as and tips from residents. It will affect two dozen public housing complexes in Clark County.

Interviewed Southern Nevada public housing residents expressed concern over the ban’s impact on disabled and handicapped residents, some of whom lack the physical abilities to leave their homes on their own. Disabled residents, who before could light up in the comfort of their own residences, may not be able to make it outside each time they desire a smoke.

Many such residents, especially seniors, have been longtime smokers, said Antoine Jaynes, whose 81-year-old mother Marcia Johnson resides in Ernie Cragin Terrace Housing in the northeast valley. Asking residents like Johnson to stop smoking is “a lost cause,” her son said.