Jack Huston says he's been smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day for 40 years. He's lived in the Plaza Towers apartments on Wilson Road for five years, so he feels banning smoking inside the building is outrageous.
"If I’m in my apartment, who's going to smell my secondhand smoke? Nobody," he said, as he lit a cigarette.
The Housing Authority of the County of Kern, known as HACK, is banned smoking on all of its properties starting this month.
HACK's Deputy Director Patricia Norris says the ban should not come as a surprise to tenants. HACK gave residents a chance to speak at its March and April meetings after notices were sent.
The Housing Board voted 5-1 to ban smoking. Now, residents can only smoke 15 feet away from the building.
Many tenants feel the ban is a violation of their rights.
"I don't smoke, but then I thought about the ones who do smoke that I know, and I said ‘why should they have to go all the way outside?,” said Lloyd Carter, a Plaza Towers tenant. “Can you imagine? That's 12 floors they have to go down."
Norris says a large number of residents wrote letters saying they wanted to ban smoking for health and safety reasons. The county wants the ban because it says it is cheaper to clean non-smoking rooms after tenants move out.
“This isn't a correctional facility. I can understand if we were in the custody of somebody, but we're supposedly and allegedly free,” Huston said. “How is it that they can constitute the thing of not smoking in the building?”
Norris says the Housing Authority could legally make the tenants sign a lease addendum because the original lease stated so.
She says the board hasn't worked out how they will enforce the smoking ban, but tenants caught smoking indoors or within 15 feet could face eviction.