Mark Hayward's City Matters: Smoke-free living divides apartment tenants
Twelve days ago, the Carpenter Center — a subsidized housing project in downtown Manchester — went smoke-free. After more than a year of warnings, reworded leases and smoking-cessation programs, the residents of the 96 apartments were told to snuff out the butts in their individual apartments as of June 1.
In the hallways, dining room and park benches outside the Carpenter Center, conversations about smoking have raged for months. Two people who most symbolize the debate are Linda Linton and Conrad St. Germain.
"It's great. It smells differently. You don't mind being here. You can walk the hallways and not smell smoke," Linton said.
On the other extreme is Conrad St. Germain.
He said his rent at Carpenter was $600 a month, which included everything but cable TV. Now the 67-year-old splits a $1,300-a-month apartment with his girlfriend. He also pays half the heat and half the utility bill. All so he can smoke 1-1/2 packs of cigarettes a day in his home.
One can't help but admire both Linton and St. Germain.
Linton put her social life at risk at the apartment complex. She acknowledges she's made some enemies.
And St. Germain won't be pushed around, even though it costs him money, which he doesn't have a lot of.
"I think smokers have rights. If I can't smoke, the hell with it," said St. Germain, who shows a scar on his belly from surgery he had last December to remove cancer from his liver.
Jeanette Boisvert said she quit about three months ago and is happy the smoking ban went into effect.
Smokers shrug and say they accept having to venture outside to smoke, although it will be more difficult in the winter.
Like Stewart Property, Dunfey said the housing authority will give tenants who violate the no-smoking ban a couple of written warnings before an eviction. Stewart said he initially thought staff would have to police the policy, but residents are happy to turn in violators.
Housing residents will be able to smoke 25 feet away from entrances. And the Carpenter people have their benches across the street.
Mark Hayward's City Matters runs Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. As of late, he has been enjoying a daily cigarette — always outside.
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