Public housing nationwide goes smoke-free July 31, and the ban will impact thousands of Mid-South families.
HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said going smoke-free will lower property maintenance costs and reduce the risk of fire.
The Memphis Housing Authority manages 11,000 households in Memphis and Shelby County.
MHA Executive Director Marcia Lewis said they’ll focus on working with residents who want to kick the habit.
Caroline Townsend, 66, loves to smoke a long Kool while sitting on her porch. She said Uncle Sam telling her she’s not allowed to light up is un-American.
“If you pay your bills on time, look like you ought to be able to do what you want to do,” Townsend said. “It’s like being in Russia or something where, you know, they’re saying you can’t do what you want to do.”
Caroline’s neighbor Bongo said the federal government prohibiting smoking at work or a restaurant is one thing. Banning it inside a man’s castle, he said, crosses a line.
“Y’all do that in buildings,” Bongo said, “but you can’t do that in people’s houses. So get out of our faces!”
Bongo and Townsend live in College Park in South Memphis. The Memphis Housing Authority manages more than 200 units in this community.
“We’re not going to be knocking on doors checking to see if you’re smoking,” Lewis said.
Lewis said MHA will post “no smoking” signs in outdoor areas and near playgrounds. The HUD ban forbids smoking inside apartments and houses, and within 25 feet of a building.
Lewis admits tenants are not happy with the smoke-free rule.
“We met with residents to tell them,” Lewis said. “We know this is your home, but the federal government is going to require us to implement no smoking. We recognize it’s going to be a difficult task, because you know, we’re here to provide housing. I’m not the moral police.”
Until the moral police show up at her door, Townsend plans to keep enjoying her long Kools.
“I’m going to smoke until the 31st,” Townsend said. “Smoke in my home to the 31st.”
The smoking ban applies to cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. It does not include e-cigarettes, snuff, or chewing tobacco.