Director: Pawtucket Housing Authority well on its way to being smoke-free

Director: Pawtucket Housing Authority well on its way to being smoke-free

PAWTUCKET - Representatives from the Pawtucket Housing Authority say they're making great strides toward eliminating smoking at all six of their developments by a self-imposed deadline of Aug. 1, 2014.

Stephen Vadnais, executive director of the PHA, told The Breeze he's pleased with the progress made to date by tenants and staff since the announcement in the spring that smoking would be banned under federal guidelines.

The rules, as announced to all residents of the PHA this fall, ban all new tenants from smoking in their units, with new residents required to sign a form that they won't smoke in their units. Renters already in PHA housing when the ban was announced have until Aug. 1 of 2014 to stop smoking or start smoking off the premises, said Vadnais.

As of Aug. 1, 2014, all residents of four facilities that house elderly and disabled residents, Fogarty Manor, St. Germain Manor, Kennedy Manor and Burns Manor, will only be allowed to smoke in designated smoking areas.

"We're not saying they can't smoke, just creating an environment where they smoke outside their apartment and in an appropriate space," said Vadnais.

Officials at the PHA have decided to ban all smoking at both of their family facilities, Prospect Heights and Galego Court. The decision to ban smoking at the family facilities was made because PHA officials have strong concerns about the effect of secondhand smoke on children's health and the increased likelihood that children will smoke themselves if they see adults around them smoking, said Vadnais.

The non-smoking policy in public housing that the PHA is citing was issued July 17, 2009, by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees local housing authorities.

The policy "strongly encourages public housing authorities to implement non-smoking policies in some or all of their public housing units."

Vadnais told The Breeze that few residents have shown up to complain about the new rules at the PHA's informational meetings. One man continues to be loud in his opposition to the new rules, but most have been agreeable, he said. Though some feel that "we're taking something away from them," what's often left out of the conversation, said Vadnais, is what is potentially being taken away from non-smokers when it comes to quality of life and their health. Many residents of PHA facilities have breathing problems, and even those who don't can be hurt by smoke going under doors or through ventilation systems, he said.

The new policies on smoking are not designed to be punitive, said Vadnais, or to "pit one resident against another resident" by asking them to tattle.

"We're trying to get compliance in a positive manner," he said. "We're spending more time trying to get the word out."

So far there has been no decision to implement fines for non-compliance, said Vadnais. PHA officials are working with various groups in an effort to start smoking cessation classes for anyone interested. A number of residents have already indicated an interest in the classes, he said.

Vadnais did not have statistics available on how many residents of PHA units have quit smoking or how many are still smoking, but some residents have already indicated that they've kicked the habit.

The Pawtucket Housing Authority manages six developments consisting of 1,076 units throughout the city of Pawtucket. Two of the developments have been designated elderly-only, two are mixed elderly/disabled developments, and two are family developments.

The Housing Authority provides federally subsidized housing to 1,982 people whose household incomes range from very low, low, and moderate incomes.

A tenant's affordable rent is based on 30 percent of their adjusted income. The PHA also has a flat rent for each unit based on the local unsubsidized housing market.