Sarasota, Florida - banned smoking in over 500 homes for the poor..

February 8, 2011 - Following a national movement to curb secondhand smoke in public housing units, the agency charged with housing Sarasota's poorest families has banned smoking at more than 500 of its homes. The low-income tenants benefiting from assistance from the Sarasota Housing Authority must either quit smoking or smoke only in designated outdoor areas by the time the ban goes into effect July 1, 2011.

But newly arriving residents of some rentals at places like the Janie Poe complex can be evicted now if they are caught smoking under a new Housing Authority lease adopted last month that bans smoking indoors. The ban comes on the heels of directives issued by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which encourage smoking bans in public housing.

Bill Russell, executive director of the Housing Authority: "The smoke is permeating in the hallways and the air conditioning units. We know this is happening in almost all of our properties. We felt that the second-hand smoke health effects were a significant factor. Russell added that cigarettes are the leading cause of fire fatalities. Plus, the authority must pay more to refurbish units when smoking tenants move and leave odors and smoke residue on the walls.

The authority does not yet have a plan for enforcing the ban, but its attorneys are drafting rules. With help from the county, property managers will also build designated areas for residents to smoke outside, with cigarette disposal systems and signs.

To help with that effort, the Sarasota County Health Department will offer various classes and support such as nicotine patches and gum to tenants who wish to quit.

Reference: Sarasota Housing Authority bans smoking in units NEW RULES: Come July, low-income tenants must quit or take it outside by J. DAVID McSWANE, Herald-Tribune, 2/5/2011.

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