Public housing in Alaska is planning to go smoke-free this summer.
The Alaska Housing Finance Corp. announced this week that 660 of the 1,628 units they own and manage statewide will no longer allow smoking inside as of Aug. 1. Among those are 290 units in Anchorage, mostly serving low-income seniors.
The ban has been under discussion for years, said Cathy Stone, the director of AHFC's public housing division.
The move follows a growing nationwide movement to ban smoking in public housing.
According to the Smoke-Free Environments Law Project, the number of public housing authorities that have added smoke-free rules increased 1,300 percent in 72 months.
In 2010, AHFC surveyed tenants and found that 74 percent said they wanted to live in smoke-free housing.
AHFC started with large developments housing elderly or medically fragile people because "they have the least ability to get away from (smoke)," Stone said.
Accidental fires are also a concern, Stone said. A man died in a fire after falling asleep while smoking a cigarette at the Glacier View home in Seward a few years back, she said.
The AHFC will next review public comment on the proposed rule. Stone said she'd gotten eight comments so far, most of them in favor of the change.
Some residents opposed to the change have said they feel a smoking ban infringes on their personal freedom, she said.
On Wednesday, residents at Chugach View in Anchorage said they hoped management would offer comfortable outdoor accommodations for smokers, especially in the wintertime.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an across-the-board smoke ban would save $521 million per year in reduced health care expenditures related to secondhand smoke, renovation and smoking-related fire losses.
Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4344.
By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS