Every now and then we hear about a HUD ecigarette ban, either in one city or another. They’re always based on scare tactics and an attempt to “save the public” from the supposed harms of vaping, or secondhand vapor. While our view has consistently been do not ban ecigs because of the harm that does to smokers, sometimes it easier to argue than others. In this latest proposal by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we’re flat out appalled at the level of harm that could be inflicted on a population that can’t afford it.
The HUD ecigarette ban that they want to enact is far-reaching. More than 1.2 million Americans live in public housing under HUD jurisdiction and a new set of bylaws would have indoor smoking outlawed in those residences. That part isn’t great for individual freedoms, but at least we can understand the HUD wanting to protect their investment in housing against fires or even just smoke-related damage. Smoking tobacco cigarettes indoors certainly makes an apartment or house stink and requires new paint, new drapes, or sometimes even more drastic action. So HUD isn’t totally wrong in this we suppose, until they took it too far.
The new rules could prohibit vaping indoors in homes of HUD housing, but also it would extend to 25 out. That means these residents, some of which are disabled and all of which are poor enough to need housing assistance, may face a big obstacle for staying compliant with these rules. As if the obstacles to making the switch away from traditional tobacco smoking weren’t enough, here come government bureaucrats to make it worse. The HUD released a document that outlined the consequences, and they aren’t pretty. “There may be costs to residents as a result of eviction, particularly for persons with disabilities, and especially those with mobility impairments,” read the text. That’s right, they are threatening the disabled with evictions all over water vapor.
HUD Ecigarette Ban Unenforceable, Bad Policy
This HUDecigarette ban isn’t just a bad idea, it’s also not enforceable, which makes it bad policy. Along with calling the proposed rules “cruel and absurd,” Gregory Conley points out that “Vapor products create no smoke and leave behind no lingering smell, so outside of hiring peeping Toms, there is simply no way to enforce such a ban.”
Conley is the president of the American Vaping Association and is with us in saying do not ban ecigs, but his point goes beyond the basic point that vaping shouldn’t be outlawed anywhere. Here he takes issue with the very enforceability of the proposed ban.
How will anyone actually police HUD residents for something that dissipates very quickly and has no smell?
Julie Woessner agrees. She serves as executive director for the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, and thinks “it is unlikely that anyone who was dedicated to vaping instead of smoking would obey this rule since there is no way it could be enforced.” Basic common sense means an HUD ecigarette ban against indoor vaping is beyond unrealistic. Woessner goes a step further, pointing out that “It is generally a bad idea to create laws that we know people are going to flout, thus undermining the legitimacy of all laws.”
The worst thing about all this is the very population it targets. These are segments of society that need our help. They qualify for housing assitance and many are also disabled. If they are vaping, they’re making that switch away from traditional tobacco cigarettes. This is a change that is good for them in many ways, one of which is the cost savings of buying cartridges or eliquid instead of packs of cigarettes. That alone could save these low-income individuals thousands of dollars a year. That’s not to mention all the other numerous benefits of electronic cigarettes. We should be encouraging them to make the switch to vapor, not making it harder for them!
But that seems to be the wacky thinking that we’re encountering these days. It isn’t everywhere, and reason does shine through sometimes, but it happens too often that bad ecigarette ban is proposed and the HUD ecigarette ban is bad policy. We have to keep track of these and keep fighting against them because the world we would like to see is one filled with vapor and emptied of traditional tobacco smoke.