After ban, smokers in public housing wonder 'where to now?'

By  | 

HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Public housing agencies have 18 months to comply with a federal rule that bans smoking in public housing nationwide, drawing the ire of some smokers.

One of those people is Melinda Alonso, who lives at the Mason House in Clarksburg. She smokes over her sink, but abides by the rules that prevent smoking in common areas or within 20 feet of the entrance to the building. She thinks this ban, though, is going too far.

"I think if I'm in my own apartment, and I'm not smoking around someone else, I think I should be allowed to smoke," Alonso said.

Just two floors above lives Cecil Richards, who doesn't smoke. He requires oxygen for his sleep apnea, but as far as he's concerned, people should do what they please inside their own homes.

"If you want to smoke in your apartment, you can smoke in your apartment," Richards said, before adding a caveat. "Just keep it out of the hallways."

Over at the Laurel Lanes apartments, Cesar Castro was hearing the news for the first time Monday.

"It would be an issue, to an extent," Castro said. "I don't see why we would have to leave the premises just to smoke a cigarette."

In addition to pertaining to living units, the rule would ban smoking in all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative offices.

Castro smokes outside his apartment, away from his four kids. His wife, Stephanie, said she was excited by the possibility that the ban could push him to quit smoking altogether.

"That would be awesome," she said.

Charles McCumbers said the ban might drive him to quit smoking, too. He's been an avid smoker since he was a teenager, and goes through about ten cigars a day.

"It would be kind of hard to give it up," McCumbers admitted. "I mean, rules are rules."

The Clarksburg-Harrison Regional Housing Authority will be responsible for overseeing the implementation. Lou Aragona, the executive director, says they will determine how to accommodate smokers.

"We can provide and we are allowed to provide designated smoking areas," Aragona explained. "And again, that is something that we'll look at."

Aragona went on to describe what the next 18 months could look like. You can see that conversation in the video above this article.