Public housing smoking ban: A landlord can make any silly rule, but that doesn’t make it right
July 6, 2012
Michael J. McFadden, author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains,” and Mid-Atlantic regional director of the Citizens Freedom Alliance.
Q: Why do you think it’s wrong to ban smoking in public housing?
A: A landlord can make any silly rule they want for their tenants, but that doesn’t make it right. Legally, the Allentown Housing Authority may be able to get away with this, but there is no rightness about it. They should not be telling someone what to do in the privacy of their own home.
Q: Doesn’t the authority have the right to protect its property from the damage that smoking causes to the apartment?
A: Actually, that’s a valid argument, particularly in the case of a heavy smoker who has been there for 10 or 20 years. But it’s also the case with people who like to eat fried food. Are they going to ban making bacon next? Of course not. If you want to make the damage argument, then charge the smoker a deposit and use it to clean the place up when they leave, if necessary, just the way you would with someone who left other damage.
Q: Doesn’t smoking cause an added fire risk?
A: It could, but a ban could also cause an added fire risk as well. If someone is forced to hide their smoking, they’re not going to have ashtrays in their apartment, and when someone comes to the door they’re going to dispose of their cigarette in a rush. Both of those situations can cause the improper disposal of a cigarette butt.
Q: Allentown Housing Authority officials say the secondhand smoke problem is perhaps the biggest issue. Do they make a valid argument?
A: Absolutely not. They can get all the instruments they want to detect some minute amount of smoke that has seeped into the next unit, but they can’t cite a single study that shows such amounts of secondhand smoke are a health hazard to people in the next apartment. I challenge the Allentown Housing Authority to show me any study that shows any real danger to the tenant in the next apartment. They can’t because it doesn’t exist. That brings me back to the bacon. If the tenant in the next apartment doesn’t like the smell of bacon, are they going to ban that, too? They’re picking on smokers and it’s not necessary.
Q: Any advice for people in Allentown public housing?
A: The authority has a legal right to do this, so there is very little they can do except complain. Get your neighborhoods together and make your voices heard.