A new piece of City Council legislation would forbid New York City tenants living in city-subsidized apartments from smoking in their own homes—a law that already applies in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albany.
The bill, presented to the council today and sponsored by Queens Councilmember Donovan Richards, would apply to all 178,000 apartments in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Post reports. Tenants moving into brand new subsidized units would find a no-smoking stipulation in their leases, possibly punishable by fines factored into monthly rent, according to the tabloid.
An official blueprint for enforcement and punishment has yet to be determined.
Richards, who chairs the Council's environmental protection committee, has presented his legislation as a measure to protect health.
"The only way to protect nonsmokers from exposure to the toxins found in cigarettes within the confines of their homes is to create entirely smoke-free housing,” he wrote this spring, when the legislation was first proposed.
"Considering the correlation between poor health and exposure to cigarette smoke, I strongly urge the de Blasio administration as they study ways to meet their affordable housing goal, to require that all 200,000 of the newly created or preserved housing units be smoke free."
Assuming he can pull all of those units off.
Capital reports that a small number of the city's affordable housing apartments are smoke-free already, including Arbor House in the Bronx and Utica Place in Brooklyn. The prospect of a city-imposed ban has raised concerns about rights violations on both sides of the argument.
“You're taking advantage of [the tenants'] position because they can't afford a private house so they can't smoke,” New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (NYC CLASH) founder Audrey Silk told the news outlet.
Whereas Richards has argued that children and elderly people living in subsidized housing have a "right" to smoke-free air.
“You have a right to do what you want to do in your apartment — except when it’s hurting people next door or upstairs," he told the News.
Richards's Chief of Staff also alluded to tenant concerns that anti-smoking policies might give landlords leverage for harassment. "We don’t want it to contribute to displacement or harassment," he told the Post. "This is really about clean air."
A 2015 study found that NYC smoking rates have hit their lowest point since 2007. The most recent data shows that 13.9% of New Yorkers were smoking in 2014, down from 16.1% in 2013, or more than 1 million New Yorkers.