MOREHOUSE, MO (KFVS) - Public housing residents in Morehouse, Missouri have mixed feelings about a new smoke free policy that HUD implemented in July 2018.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's new rule prohibits the smoking of lit tobacco products inside and 25 feet around public housing and administration buildings.
Sue Botter has been a smoker for 50 years and has often done it on her porch and inside her duplex at the Morehouse Public Housing Authority complex. That all changed with this policy.
"I don't think its right," she said. "I feel like we should have the right to smoke and a right not to. This isn't a prison. This is our home."
Botter has lung cancer and says she has not smoked in three weeks. But if she wants to light up again, she has to take her walker out to one of two benches across the street from her complex.
"And who wants to go out when it's cold weather or raining . I don't want to," Botter said. "If I was smoking I would probably sneak and smoke in the house, and we would get write up for that. If you get three write ups they ask you to leave and I don't think that is fair."
HUD estimates that the making thousands of public homes smoke free will save nearly 500 million dollars a year in healthcare and housing costs like extra maintenance.
Carol Burton, a non-smoker, says her current public housing duplex in Morehouse had to be remodeled before she moved in because the last occupant was a chain smoker.
""This place was terrible," Burton said. "I don't know how long it took for them to paint and get the smell out of here because she smoked and even the tile was yellow. It does cost. I don't blame them for that."
HUD documents also detail the smoking ban as a way to reduce. health risks caused by secondhand smoke being a big problem.
Susan Majors says she has gone from smoking two packs a day to 5 or 8 cigarettes since the new rule started. She believes not smoking inside will help her and her loved ones stay healthy.
"It's helped my health. My nurse same today and he could tell the difference," Majors said. "My granddaughter, Sierra, she can not stand the smell of it. She hates the smell of cigarettes. When she comes to my house she says 'Oh Nana your house smells so much better now.'"
Larry Wolfe says he and many of his public housing neighbors have smoked less because they have to walk to the designated smoking area.
"There is a lot of people that have cut down quite a bit so it's saving money to," Wolfe said. "We've got more comradery out here. Before we would be smoking alone and now we can talk to each other, meet your neighbors. It's really nice."
Both Botter and Burton believe the rule should be tweaked to allow public housing residents to still smoke on their porch, especially if they have limited mobility.
"It's a good idea for them to smoke outside the house, but not way out there in the field somewhere. I think that is ridiculous," Burton said. "But that is government rules. You've got to follow them."
HUD's new smoke free facility rule does not apply to e-cigarettes or chewing tobacco.