State halts no smoking ban at public housing

It was more than a year ago that the state rolled out a public housing smoking ban for residents, guests and workers.

But we’ve learned the state will no longer enforce the rule.

The Hawaii Public Housing Authority implemented the ban in February 2013.

If residents were caught breaking the rule, they could have lost their lease.

The HPHA said it went forward with the smoking ban despite no lawmaker approval.

Now it appears the HPHA may have jumped the gun.

The HPHA realized it needed a law to be passed before it can make such drastic changes, and this month, sent out a notice to its residents retracting its no smoking policy.

But one of the public housing properties in Kalihi, Kamehameha Homes, still has last month’s notice posted on its bulletin board reminding residents about the no smoking policy.

In fact, some residents we spoke with seemed to think the policy was still in effect.

“We’re not supposed to smoke around the housing.  I think we can get evicted if we break the law,” said Easterlyn Kaminanga, Kamehameha Homes resident.

The policy prohibited public housing residents from smoking in and near their homes.

“Everybody was worried about getting kicked out,” said Alii Mamoe, Kamehameha Homes resident.

But according to the HPHA’s latest notice: “At the present time, a No Smoking policy is not in effect.”

The notice goes on to say in part: “HPHA will NOT prohibit STATE public housing tenants, household members, and their guests from smoking tobacco … in dwelling units and on public housing property.”

“I don’t think they tried hard to enforce it. And when they retracted it it’s like no big deal because people were smoking anyway so it was like no difference,” said Ainise Potauaine, Kamehameha Homes resident.

Perhaps residents and management can see it as a test run because there’s a bill advancing through the Hawaii Legislature that would prohibit smoking in and around public housing.

SB651 passed out of conference committee this week and is up for a vote next week before the full Senate and House.

If that bill becomes law, it would go into effect immediately upon its approval.

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