Authority commissioners have decided to ban smoking at all HHA-owned property, beginning July 1. HHA Executive Director Colleen McCarthy said the ban was merited in the authority’s 366 apartments because she has received complaints from nonsmoking tenants about the smell of smoke migrating into their apartments from other units or through windows; and because some tenants use tanks of highly flammable oxygen. McCarthy also said cleaning apartments after smokers move out is expensive and sometimes ineffective. Those caught smoking would be subject to eviction. The HHA has previously evicted residents who used oxygen tanks and continued to smoke. Montana Legal Services Association lawyer Amy Hall said she was concerned the smoking ban would create more problems than it solves by leaving low-income people without a place to live if they couldn’t or wouldn’t quit smoking. Commissioners initially proposed a rule that would have allowed residents to smoke if they stood more than 25 feet from any building. Residents had time to review the proposal and about 20 attended Tuesday’s meeting. After a discussion over how the policy could be approved without changing the lease, Commissioner Steve Netschert said he wanted to “cut to the chase.” He proposed the smoking ban on all properties, which the other three commissioners present supported. Three other commissioners were absent. Netschert said he doesn’t like the idea of people in low-income housing spending money on cigarettes. “I don’t know how to tactfully put this a pack of cigarettes costs three or five bucks a day,” he said. Hall asked commissioners to spend more time to study the issue and to come up with a policy fair to both smokers and nonsmokers. A new lease containing the smoking ban will go into effect April 1 and all tenants will have to sign the new lease.