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Smoking will soon be banned in Syracuse public housing

Tom Magnarelli
Pioneer Homes is one public housing complex in Syracuse.

Starting Thursday, smoking will be banned in all of Syracuse’s public housing. The decision comes from a recommendation made by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development which may institute the ban nationwide.

Francine Whitman lives in one of the public housing complexes in Syracuse and she’s not thrilled about the smoking ban.

“They’re not going to have the smoking police but they’re going to go more on neighbors’ complaints," Whitman said. "I think that could cause some animosity amongst our neighbors. For me to go outside with my 9-year-old, it puts him in danger and I think I have the right to smoke in my house.”

Residents were given more than a year’s notice of the changes. Some are for it, some are against it, and some have already moved out. Bill Simmons, the executive director of the Syracuse Housing Authority said within the next year, it is likely that public housing nationwide will be mandated to go smoke free.

“Many of our residents, especially the elderly, have breathing issues whether its asthma or emphysema or some of those concerns," Simmons said. "With the new American’s with Disabilities’ Act we have to accommodate reasonable requests to have a smoke-free environment. Renters, whether it's public housing or even in the private market, this is the direction everybody's going. There have been tenants that have moved into other ” 

The initiative also includes a ban on electronic vapor cigarettes. Residents that violate it could face a variety of warnings, potential fine and ultimately eviction. The Syracuse Housing Authority has about 2,300 units of public housing. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.