Tacoma Housing Authority to ban smoking in its residential facilities

The Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) announced Monday its board of commissioners voted last week to prohibit smoking in all of its rental housing units. The move, which aims to provide healthier housing for its residents and a healthier work place for its employees, makes THA one of the largest housing providers in Pierce County to adopt a smoke-free housing policy, according to a statement released today.

The smoking ban will go into effect on March 1, 2013.

THA has long prohibited smoking in common areas. This new policy will apply to all indoor spaces, including the inside of rented apartments and homes. It also will apply to designated outdoor areas. As part of the implementation of this policy, THA and the Community Transformation Partnership of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will connect residents to smoking cessation services and products.

“THA is pleased to join the growing number of public and private property managers that have prohibited smoking,” said THA Executive Director Michael Mirra. “A smoking ban is necessary to allow us to fulfill our fundamental responsibilities as a landlord and an employer to provide safe housing and a safe workplace.”

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and other partners have worked with THA to support this significant health policy decision.

“All Pierce County residents have the right to live in healthy, safe environments that allow them to be productive and engaged citizens,” said Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, director of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “THA’s decision to adopt a smoke-free housing policy is an important step in to improving public health in Pierce County.”

“We commend the Tacoma Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and staff on the approval of their no-smoking policy,” added Julie Peterson of Comprehensive Health Education Foundation (CHEF). “The decision creates safer living conditions for all residents. Health problems are also among the top barriers to accessing and maintaining employment. The Housing Authority’s commitment today reflects their dedication to creating both health and economic opportunities for all residents.”

The board’s decision was the result of a nine-month review that included consultation with residents, staff, other property management firms and the expertise of the health department, CHEF, the Tobacco Free Alliance of Pierce County, and the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Office (PNRC-NAHRO). Among other research and outreach activities, THA, the health department and these partners hosted numerous meetings and conducted a survey throughout THA properties to elicit the views of residents.

Private and public housing organizations are adopting no smoking policies locally and nationwide. Seattle, Walla Walla, Spokane, and Renton are making strides in the smoke-free housing movement. Statewide, 28 of 38 housing authorities have either a 100 percent no smoking policy or a number of their units are covered by such a policy.

More information is available online at tacomahousing.org.

The E. B. Wilson Apartments in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood is one of many Tacoma Housing Authority buildings that will ban smoking next year. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)