The Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake has been working to wean tenants from smoking in units it oversees since 2007. It recently made the decision to ban smoking at Union Plaza, home to 30 low income families, and the Kelly Benson Apartments which offers housing to senior citizens opened as smoke free last year. The Bud Bailey Apartments are slated to open next year, and they will be smoke free as well. Another 1,000 units may go smoke free if the the program is successful
Authorities cited health concerns and financial considerations in support of their decisions. Most people are well versed in the hazards of smoking to smokers and those that impact those exposed to second hand smoke. The authorities seem to have focused more on second hand smoke issues in general, and the potential harmful effects on children in particular. Children exposed to second hand smoke are more susceptible to asthma, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome and respiratory infections. Authorities also cite to research that suggests even very low levels of exposure to second hand smoke can have deleterious on children’s development and function.
On the financial side of the ledger, authorities cite to increase costs associated with housing turn over. It costs more to remove stains and odors from curtains, carpets and walls when smoking tenants vacate their units.
Authorities insist that the new policy is not aimed at trying to make the smoking tenants quit. That said, if that is an outcome for some, all the better according to the manager of Union Plaza. She also notes that authorities will make resources available if tenants do decide they want to quit. Likewise, the agency does not want the ban be an impediment for low income individuals to seek housing at its facilities so one is being denied or evicted if they intend to or do smoke in their units.
While there is flexibility with the application of the policy, it does seem a bit big brotherish for the agency to be making decisions about what its tenants do in their own homes when those activities are legal. However, when those legal activities negatively impact the health of other tenants and the bottom line of the agency, the proper call has probably been made on the smoking issue.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.