Public housing agencies must have a smoke free policy in place

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(WSAW) -- Monday begins a new era in public housing. Public housing agencies had until Monday to meet a Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, rule which says agencies must have a smoke-free policy in place.

That policy started when HUD sent out a survey to public housing agencies across the country. Those results, and research indicating how much money could be saved, were enough to forbid any smoking in public housing.

"This HUD rule is estimated to save somewhere between $95 million in health care costs. So just the savings alone is a good motivator," said Jennifer Otterholt with the Marathon County Health Department.

Resident can still smoke but, if they want to, they need to be at least 25 feet away from the building.

Stevens Point Housing Authority Executive Director Donna Bella can't help but think of the special circumstances in Wisconsin as this rule takes effect across the country.

"The most difficult part for the smokers, obviously, is we live in Wisconsin. There is not like good weather in the winter, so for them to have to go outside and smoke, that's a difficult thing," said Bella.

County officials hope the added step of asking smokers to stay outside might just be the hassle that helps them quit altogether.

Many agencies already had a no smoking policy in place, including the Stevens Point Housing Authority, but Monday's deadlines ensured it's no longer an option for agencies who hadn't implemented a policy already.