Thursday, December 29, 2016

LETTER: Dear President-Elect Trump, please repeal HUD's smoking ban rule...

P.O. Box 1036
Brooklyn, New York 11234

                                                                                                December 22, 2016

The Honorable Donald Trump
Presidential Transition Office
721 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

     We are elated to have elected to our White House two men who honor the rich traditions of our country and the fundamental beliefs on which it was founded.  Smaller and less intrusive government, which both you and Vice President-Elect Pence clearly value, is an ideal that not only applies to business and industry but to the people.  And so we hope that the burdens you’ve both promised to lift off of industry in pursuit of economic freedom will be lifted off of the people as well in pursuit of personal freedom.

     We ask that you rescind the final rule “Smoke-Free Public Housing” that was imposed by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) and printed in the Federal Register on December 5, 2016 (Docket No. FR 5597-F-03).  You don’t have to have a favorable view of smoking to be against what New York’s Observer newspaper editors describe as possibly “the most far-reaching, intrusive and over-reaching executive order of the entire Obama administration.”1 Far-reaching because it assaults people in the privacy of their own homes and over-reaching because it is fraught with substantial constitutional questions.2   

     Imagine an elderly or disabled veteran being told by a federal agency that he can't enjoy a cigar in his own home; that he'd have to get dressed, somehow make it downstairs and then 25 feet further (or more since the HUD rule provides latitude to each public housing authority to extend it) into the freezing cold, torrid heat or drenching rain without a bench to sit on.  No, s/he can’t go to the park because smoking is banned there too.

     In 2013, President Obama honored the nation's oldest veteran, Richard Overton, in front of thousands in D.C. on Veteran’s Day.3  Obama told the crowd, "His service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home."  Well, this veteran is also well known for his love of his cigars – enjoying up to twelve of them a day.  Mr. Overton is still with us at 110 years old.4 What “respect at home” are veterans like him receiving from President Obama and Housing Secretary Julian Castro when they are being kicked out of their homes – either twelve times a day or for good if they get evicted for non-compliance?

     HUD’s callous disregard for the well-being (in all other uninvited manner beside the personally invited legal choice to smoke) of residents such as Mr. Overton dictates that this exercise cannot be rationally said to be all about health.  If the person who wants to smoke falls down the stairs, catches pneumonia or becomes depressed is the trade HUD is making then it’s clear the only thing this rule is about is HUD’s complicity in Big Public Health’s singularly obsessive social engineering experiment.  “Quit smoking” – at the point of their rule-making gun – is their answer and the real motivation behind this rule. (Claiming smoking in one apartment harms non-smokers in another apartment is their wholly unproved excuse.)  They call it the “tobacco endgame.”5 I think others would call this means to an end the “liberty endgame”; whereby to “denormalize” smoking they have had to denormalize civil liberty ideals.

     This is not a “right to smoke” objection as HUD and its rule supporters insist on characterizing any resistance.  At stake is the right of U.S. citizens to be left alone to engage in a legal activity in the privacy of one’s own home – the last place left without a smoking ban (otherwise this is also de facto Prohibition). There can be no end to such incursion if one is allowed through. It was, in fact, Vice President-Elect Pence who once said, “A government big enough to go after smokers is big enough to go after you.”6

     We have no objections to government and health groups advising against smoking and offering stop-smoking assistance to those who seek it.  But when Congress and states’ rights are side-stepped and a federal agency starts breaking down its citizens’ own front doors to rip it out of their hands because they refuse the advice let’s stop pretending the issue is about smoking instead of tyranny.   

     We the people beg you for relief.  Please rescind this rule.


                                                                                                Audrey Silk

cc:        The Honorable Mike Pence
            Vice President-Elect

            Dr. Ben Carson
            HUD Secretary Nominee

            The Honorable Tom Price
            HHS Secretary Nominee


1. Editorial. “The Nanny State Shames Poor Smokers in Their Homes.” Observer. 12/7/16.

2. Audrey Silk / C.L.A.S.H. Comment on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Proposed Rule: FR 5597-P-02 Instituting Smoke- Free Public Housing. ID: HUD-2015-0101-0528.  1/12/16

3. Lindy Royce-Bartlett. “Oldest World War II vet Richard Overton, 107, honored by President Obama.” CNN. 11/11/13

4. Douglas Ernst. “Oldest World War II veteran still chomping cigars at 110.” The Washington Times.

5. "Part of the 'tobacco endgame' is to further denormalize smoking, to the point that the next generation of kids will not grow up seeing it as something adults do. This is a hard argument to make when a kid smells smoke every time he walks into the hallway of his building and sees groups of residents smoking on stoops. Smoking bans have really helped to marginalize smoking behavior in other settings, like airports, restaurants, hospitals and schools. Multiunit housing is the next logical step."

Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute, Center for Health Policy / Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research News. “Is proposed ban on smoking in public housing fair and just?” 11/16/15

6.  Kim LaCapria. “That Makes No Pence.” Snopes. 11/11/16