layton apartment manager's smoking ban rankles tenants

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:06 PM

The Associated Press

LAYTON — Many Utah housing complexes have policies that discourage smoking, but one Layton landlord has rankled some of his tenants after announcing a sweeping ban that likely would squeeze people out of the government-subsidized apartments if they don’t quit soon.

Randy Banks has garnered the support of the Davis County Health Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in his plan to bar smoking at the Skyline View Apartments grounds starting Nov. 1.

“What smoke-free means is that you can’t smoke within 25 feet of the apartment property, which means sidewalks are not 25 feet away and the middle of the road won’t work either!” Banks wrote in an April 29 notice sent to the low-income tenants.

Layton City Attorney Gary Crane said the change would be binding if both landlord and tenants agree, although he said the city wouldn’t cite people for smoking on sidewalks and streets.

The proposed ban has irked some tenants.

Randy Batchelor, 32, a smoker and longtime Skyline View tenant, disagrees with the proposal and said he and his fiancee plan to look for other housing.

“You can’t force someone to do something that they’re not ready to do,” he said.

Batchelor, who said he started smoking at age 14, said he’d like to quit but lacks the willpower.

Since 2009, HUD has “strongly encouraged” public housing authorities to ban smoking.

Doug Carlson, executive director of the Provo City Housing Authority, said his agency has been moving toward clear-air policies since 2001.

He said he doesn’t ask applicants whether they smoke and has never evicted someone from one of the city’s 350 units because they smoked inside.

“We establish the policy, and if they choose to live here, they must comply,” Carlson said. “Some of our properties have designated gazebos for smoking. Some do not.”

Banks told residents in the notice that he hopes they’ll all join the effort and enjoy a fresher lifestyle.

But critics, including Andrew McCullough, a former Libertarian candidate for state attorney general, slammed the ban’s premise.

“When the government tells us how big a soft drink we can have, and we can’t smoke out in our yard, it seems to me it’s gone too far in terms of Big Brother,” he said.

“We really need to take a deep breath and say that we can’t be our brother’s keeper — we can’t make all the moral decisions for them.”

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