New smoking ban forces Youngstown tenants outside late at night

Local News

It’s been almost a month since the public housing smoking ban has been in effect. Managers have taken a lenient approach so far but smokers say it’s still difficult.

The possibility of being evicted seems to be enough to get smokers to light up outside but in the process, they’re making decisions that could get them into a different kind of trouble.

“I wish they’d take that ban off of us because I like to watch TV and smoke,” Keith Brown said.

The last month has been a struggle for smokers in public housing. They can’t smoke on the property anymore because of the nationwide ban — and they’re taking it seriously. Brown said it’s $250 if they get caught.

Housing managers are taking it seriously, too.

“If we smell smoke, we will investigate,” said Jason Whitehead, CEO of Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority.

But managers are also trying to be understanding. They haven’t issued any written citations this month — just verbal warnings.

“It’s not a ‘gotcha’ type of thing,” Whitehead said. “We’re trying to work with people because some people have been smoking for 50 years.”

Brown is one of them. He started smoking when he was 6.

He has the urge to smoke constantly, which makes it difficult in the middle of the night.

“It be 4 o’clock at night, I wake up and you gotta be pretty brave to come out at 4 so I wait ’til like, 7. Too dark to be out here by myself,” Brown said.

Tenant Brenda Jackson agrees that it’s dangerous.

“That’s not safe to come out here in the middle of the night, 1, 2, 3 in the morning,” she said. “No telling who out here that can harm you or hurt you.”

Whitehead said one of the main purposes of the ban is to encourage people to quit. For longtime smokers, that’s easier said than done.

“You just can’t make them go cold turkey like that, it’s not gonna happen,” Jackson said. “It’s not that fast. They can forget it.”

Once a person has been formally cited, they have an opportunity to appeal it at an informal hearing. Depending on how that hearing goes, they could be evicted.

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