DELTA, Colo.- - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has implemented new rules mandating smoke-free policies in all public housing facilities. The rules will be in effect by July 30 of next year and it covers 3,100 public housing authorities nationwide. 47 of these are in Colorado and one of them is Delta County.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been working with public housing authorities and public health agencies for the past 10 years to reduce the effects of secondhand smoke upon residents. The Delta County Health Department used state funds from Amendment 35 to help the Delta Housing Authority's expansion of the smoke-free policy. Amendment 35 is a tax increase on cigarettes and some tobacco products. The Delta Housing Authority now has 171 units that are smoke-free. "There's so many people that don't smoke nowadays. So this encourages people to join that rank, and it does help our tenants who don't have to deal with the secondhand smoke," says Cathy Carch, the Administrative Service Director at the Delta Housing Authority.
According to the Delta County Health Department, this ban on smoking in public housing is important for those in apartment buildings. "In multi-housing, you're sharing the same ventilation system so people who don't choose to smoke are getting the secondhand smoke," says Karen O'Brien, the Health Educator for Delta County Health Department.
The Delta County Health Department anticipated this smoke-free policy, and in 2011 they made some of their properties smoke-free. With the new rules from HUD, the Delta County Health Department "enhanced the policy to include more of the grounds and also more of the buildings, and some of the single-family dwellings as well," says O'Brien.
According to the Delta Housing Authority, these smoke-free policies are even beneficial for the smokers who must navigate the new policy. "I was told that it helped a lot of people to quit smoking since they need to go outside and be 25 feet away from the building - it just reduced the number of cigarettes smoked during the day," says Ute Jantz, the Executive Director for the Delta Housing Authority.
Carch says these smoke-free initiatives are beneficial for all involved. "There is a great need for housing and it's really rewarding to help people get back on their feet. We like to say here at housing it's not a hand out, it's a hand up," says Carch. According to the Delta Housing Authority, Delta and Montezuma county are the only two counties that still provide public housing units for the Western Slope.
The number one cause of death in Colorado is smoking, which kills about 5,000 Coloradans every year.