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April 30. 2014 10:58PM

Smoking ban starts in Manchester public housing


Larry Buck, left, and Lucien Breton enjoy a cigarette Wednesday outside the Pariseau high-rise in Manchester. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — A smoking ban starts today in all of the nearly 1,400 apartments under the control of the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The ban follows a year of preparation, housing authority Director Dick Dunfey said. Nowadays, smokers are more understanding of limitations placed on their habit, he said.

“We’re very optimistic people will comply and recognize it’s not appreciated by others,” Dunfey said on Wednesday. “We don’t anticipate a problem. That isn’t to say nobody will end up violating it.”

The ban applies to all apartments, hallways and common areas in the authority-owned apartments as well as the three tax-credit-financed developments the authority manages: the Mary Gale Home, the Brown School and the Laurette Sweeney Apartments off South Porter Street.

The provision does not apply to apartments funded with Section 8 vouchers, where rental provisions are left up to individual landlords.

People cannot smoke within 25 feet of entrances, a restriction that is a sore spot for a couple of smokers outside the Pariseau high-rise Wednesday evening.

Larry Buck said he smokes outside because his wife doesn’t like second-hand smoke. So he sits on a bench or chair under an alcove that is just feet from the main entrance. He brings a coffee, and other smokers join him often.

The 25-foot restriction would put them on the lawn or sidewalk, without a shelter.

“The winters are really cold out here,” Buck said. “There’s a lot of old and disabled people in this building. ... We don’t have anywhere to go.”

Dunfey said the authority is not going to build shelters or smoking porches.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommended in 2012 that local authorities ban smoking in public housing. The Manchester authority board voted in April 2013 to ban smoking, effective today.

No-smoking provisions were added to annual leases as they came up for renewal. And the authority offered smoking cessation programs that Dunfey said were modestly attended.

Dunfey said smokers who violate the ban will be given a warning. In general, tenants are evicted after the third lease violation.

At the 11-story Pariseau high-rise, non-smokers said they’re happy to see the ban, but questioned if smokers will obey it.

“It’s bad. Too many people smoke in the hallway, inside their apartments, in the stairs,” Ricardo Ventura said.

“It’s wonderful,” said a resident who would only give her first name, Christina. She said she keeps the window in her second-floor apartment closed in the summer because people smoke nearby.

It’s not only tobacco that gets burned, she said. She once got dizzy and fell down after breathing in smoke from a nearby apartment.

“I don’t know if it was marijuana,” Christina said, “but it was a drug.”

mhayward@unionleader.com


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