|Published:||Sep 13, 2012 9:43 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Sep 14, 2012 12:06 AM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - It's your money, and we've learned that other people smoking is costing you thousands of tax dollars. So, starting January 1st, all Fort Myers Housing Authority buildings will become smoke-free.
Residents will not be allowed to smoke inside their units. They will still be allowed to smoke outside. While some look forward to cleaner air, others feel the city should butt out.
"Who wants to sit outside in 100-some degrees? Or, who wants to sit outside when it's pouring down raining?," smoker Judith Hess said.
Hess has smoked for more than 50 years. She lives at the Bonair Towers in Fort Myers and disagrees with anyone telling her where she can and can't smoke.
"No, I want to be able to smoke in my unit and I think I have the right to smoke in my unit," Hess said.
Geraldine Combs, on the other hand, doesn't light up, and is all for smoke-free air. "I have emphysema and the smoking affects me," Combs said. "I am very happy about this."
Officials say the cigarette smoke does more than just bring complaints from non-smoking neighbors. "Sometimes, it's like one inch thick of nicotine on the walls," Director of Housing Management and Maintenance Sherri Campanale said. "We have some units where people have been in the units for 20 years and you have to replace the drywall in the entire unit to turn it for the next resident to move in."
The average cost to clean and re-rent a unit is about $1,200. But, for a unit with severe smoke damage, that number can range between $3,000 to $10,000. Not only will this save money, officials hope the policy will save lives. The American Heart and Lung Associations are providing help to residents who've chosen to quit for good. "This is a big health concern and this housing authority is taking every step it can to protect residents as well as our asset," Campanale said.
Enforcing this policy won't be easy. Workers already enter units on a monthly basis for maintenance. So, starting in January, if smoking is detected inside, violators could be fined or eventually, evicted. In the meantime, the Fort Myers Housing Authority is working to create separate smoking areas on each property.