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Smoking and public housing

5/19/2018, 9:55 p.m.

We understand the Virginia Department of Health offers Quit Now Virginia, that reportedly has helped more than 40,000 people quit smoking. It uses telephone coaching sessions to help people stop smoking, including a 24-hour, toll-free helpline for support — (800) QUIT-NOW.

 Given the high stakes now facing public housing residents, we believe that more targeted programs should be made available to the more than 10,000 people living in RRHA housing. Resource centers within the city’s public housing communities already may have their hands full providing services ranging from employment assistance to youth programs. But collaborations with other local, state, federal and private programs and resources battling smoking addiction should be added.

Today, we view opioid addiction as a public health issue. The state offers to anyone free Narcan, the life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdose. What’s the difference between opioid addicts, who state statistics show are largely Caucasian, and the tobacco users in Richmond public housing who are largely African-American and poor? We believe the city has a moral obligation now to offer free nicotine patches, gum or tablets such as Chantix to help RRHA residents quit smoking. 

While HUD officials say they don’t want the new policy to end in wholesale evictions, we will see whether Richmond officials step up to the plate to help residents avoid such a disaster.