Lakeland to enforce no smoking inside public housing; outside next?

By Rick Elmhorst, Anchor/Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, May 10, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT

The Lakeland Housing Authority is preparing to enforce a rule that bans smoking inside its homes and apartments.

New residents and existing residents renewing their leases all have to sign a form promising not to smoke inside.

The agency said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been pushing local agencies to enact the rule to promote health and also to save money. It can cost thousands of dollars to prepare a unit for a new tenant after a smoker has lived there.

"You have to replace the carpet if a smoker lived there, and that's a minimum $2,000 cost,” LHA Director Ben Stevenson said.

There is also the cost of repainting.

The Lakeland Housing Authority is preparing to put up "no smoking" signs around its complexes. Officials will begin with warnings to violators, but if residents continue to violate the rule, their lease will not be renewed. They will have to move out.

Some residents are not happy with the rule.

“Well, I am like the rest of us. We don't like it,” said West Lake Apartments resident Sheila Williams.

But some of her complex neighbors who smoke are fine with the rule.

"A friend of mine over there smokes inside her house," resident Henry Gonzalez said. "You shouldn't smoke inside. You are going to stink (up) your place.”

The housing authority said it is working on rules for banning smoking outside its homes as well. That may meet with more displeasure than the inside-smoking ban.

"Once I am outside, I feel I should be able to puff and pull and be as free as I want to be,” Tammy Frank said.

The housing authority said it is working with the Polk Health Department to give people some help to quit smoking.