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Federal Public Housing Smoking Ban May Not Affect Rockford Area

Rockford Housing Authority

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced a smoking ban in public housing, effective within the next year or so. But what does that mean for nearby communities?

About 4,000 residents live in Rockford public housing. That includes children and senior citizens, who the Centers for Disease Control call the most susceptible groups to second-hand smoke.

Rockford Housing Authority CEO Ron Clewer says the HUD-issued ban doesn’t have much of an effect in Rockford. That’s because the city housing authority already banned smoking on its properties two years ago. That was the result of a study conducted by RHA.

“What we found is, many of our kids actually were having breathing difficulty – asthma and other difficulties – and most of that was either brought on by the poor-quality environment inside the home, meaning smoking and other contaminants,” Clewer said.

Clewer says the number of kids with breathing difficulties dropped after RHA banned smoking. Another study will see if there’s a direct correlation there.

The 2009 study found more than 80 percent of public housing tenants in some areas smoked.

Clewer says RHA saved thousands of dollars from not having to paint as many units – meaning less tax money from other city residents.

Freeport public housing is also already smoke-free. Winnebago County Housing Authority has been smoke-free since 2009. University Village officials in DeKalb say they are privately owned and thus not subject to the HUD smoking ban.