Some Utah Public Housing Units Are Snuffing Out Smoking

Utah government agencies have banned smoking cigarettes in offices, restaurants, bars, parks — and now inside some homes.

As part of a national movement to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, some public housing authorities in Utah are banning smoking cigarettes in subsidized housing projects.

Wendy Smith, a smoker and tenant of one of the newly smoke-free buildings, points to two reasons: Her 3-year-old son riding a tricycle at her feet and the yellowed blinds of her neighbor, who she said smokes indoors.

“It makes your house stink. It makes everything dirty inside,” said Smith, smoking cigarettes a cigarette on her front porch at Union Plaza Complex in Midvale. “It’s not healthy for your kids if you’re a smoker.”

Salt Lake County housing authority officials say they were looking out for nonsmokers’ lungs — and the bottom line — when they recently banned smoking cigarettes at two properties: Union Plaza, home to 30 low-income families, and the senior housing building Kelly Benson Apartments in West Valley City.

When apartments turn over, it costs more money to remove the odors from walls, curtains and carpets, according to advocates of smoke-free policies.

And secondhand smoke cigarettes is dangerous. Labeled as a known human carcinogen, secondhand smoke cigarettes puts children at risk of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma. Research has shown that even brief or low levels of exposure can decrease both lung function and children’s reading and math scores.

Plus, the policy may encourage smokers to quit by making it more inconvenient.