COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Public housing officials in Columbia have announced plans to ban smoking to make residents healthier and save money on maintenance.
The new ban takes effect May 1 and includes e-cigarettes, The Columbia Daily Tribune reports. Such policies are becoming widespread, with more than 225 housing authorities across the country adopting nonsmoking policies, according to a 2012 notice from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"We're not forcing anyone to stop smoking, we're just asking them to step outside," said Lee Radtke, the Columbia Housing Authority's director of public housing operations, at a meeting last week of the Resident Advisory Board.
Radtke emphasized smoking would be allowed on the housing authority's property, just not inside buildings.
The new Columbia policy does not affect people who use vouchers to obtain housing on the private market through the Section 8 program. The authority has a total of 719 public housing units in several areas throughout the city.
Radtke said the ban would be beneficial to the health and safety of residents and will help the housing authority save on maintenance costs. When tenants who smoke move out, the housing authority must repaint and replace stained blinds. Sometimes burnt carpets and tabletops must be replaced.
Tenants will be able to weigh in on possible "tweaks" to the new policy -- such as whether the housing authority should establish shelters for smokers or better lighting. Any changes would be subject to final approval by the Columbia Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners.
Members of the advisory board did not voice opposition to the policy at the meeting. But Dave Dollens, a Paquin Tower resident and board member, said after the meeting that he would prefer that the policy not be implemented.
"They ought to be able to smoke in their own house," said Dollens, who said he was a regular smoker until he quit about two decades ago.