Smoke Free Housing

Making the Case for Smoke free Multi-Unit Housing

Most people know that secondhand smoke is a serious health threat for both children and adults. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure.  For people who live in multi-unit housing properties such as apartment buildings and condominiums, a building- or property-wide smoke free policy is crucial to protecting everyone from secondhand smoke’s harmful effects. Click here to learn about the effects of Secondhand Smoke.

Because people spend so much time in their homes, making multi-unit housing smoke free plays an important role in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke from one unit or from a common area can migrate throughout the entire building by traveling through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation systems. While residents can prohibit smoking in their own units, adopting a smoke free policy for a multi-unit housing building or property will ensure that secondhand smoke does not threaten the lives and health of all residents. These policies also benefit property managers and owners by lowering fire risks and the associated insurance premiums and by reducing the amount of maintenance required before new tenants move in. Many people search for smoke free apartments when searching for housing.

Information for Tenants | Information for Landlords

The Marion L. Phillips Apartments, a property of the Claremont Housing Authority, became a 100% non-smoking property on Oct. 1, 2011.

The Authority’s Board of Commissioners voted in March 2011 to establish this policy, which bans smoking of all types of tobacco products in buildings as well as grounds. The Commissioners voted to become non-smoking for the health of tenants as well as employees, smokers and non-smokers alike. They also considered other factors:

  • A nation-wide initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to have all its public housing projects adopt non-smoking policies. Read the letter from HUD
  • Air quality testing for secondhand smoke in apartments, corridors and public spaces resulting in unacceptably high levels of particulate matter (chemicals and poisons).
  • Costs associated with renovating an apartment where smoking occurred. Special paint, new flooring, replacement appliances and cabinets, and additional labor can cost $10,000 — 10 times as expensive as turning around the apartment of a non-smoker. With HUD providing less capital funding each year, the Authority had to make its budget work more efficiently.
  • Examples set by other NH property management companies and authorities.

To help with the six-month transition and implementation, the Commissioners:

Michelle Aiken, Phillips’ site manager, has ensured that each prospective tenant knows about the strict no-smoking policy. “But that hasn’t been a problem,” she said. “In fact, more applicants have said they were happy to find a non-smoking apartment project here in the city.”

The policy has re-shaped life at the Phillips in a positive way. “Everyone — tenants, staff, family, visitors and Commissioners — has been happy with our non-smoking policy,” said Andrew Fennelly, the Authority’s executive director.
  • Sponsored a series of smoking-cessation classes
  • Covered the cost of nicotine patches and other stop-smoking aids
  • Offered opportunity to apply for other housing program vouchers, allowing for relocation where indoor smoking was allowed
  • Continue to ensure that prospective tenants know about the smoke-free policy
  • Continue to provide aids for tenants who request them
  • Purchased TSI-Sidepak Air Quality Monitor for testing
  • Continue to monitor the air, including new move-ins to establish baseline readings
  • Enforce policy and evict tenants who violated their lease agreement

For Tenants

Are you suffering from secondhand smoke drifting into your apartment or condo?

You are not alone. The secondhand smoke from even one tenant smoking indoors can drift into multiple other units and cause health problems and reduced quality of life for other residents.

Visit Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights for helpful guides and suggestions.

Visit Public Health Law & Policy to learn about Legal Options for Tenants Suffering from Secondhand Tobacco Smoke

The American Lung Association has developed Smokefree Policies in Multi-Unit Housing: Steps for Success. This free online course provides a step-by-step guide to promoting, planning and implementing a smokefree multi-unit housing policy. Steps for Success and related support materials are available on their website.

If you would like to register a complaint about exposure to secondhand smoke, fill out the Indoor Air Act Complaint Form

For Landlords

Are you a landlord or management company with questions and concerns about tenants smoking in your buildings?

If so, you are not alone. Whether you own a duplex and rent out the second unit, manage a six-building condominium complex, or are a property management firm with apartment buildings in multiple states, drifting secondhand smoke is an issue you are probably confronting now or will need to address in the near future.

NH Resource List:

  • Landlord No-Smoking Policy Guide HTML | PDF
  • Sample Policies for Landlords PDF
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Smoke Exposure Study HTML | PDF
  • A No-Smoking Policy Protects Health & Saves Money HTML | PDF
  • A No-Smoking Policy Protects Buildings From Fire & Lowers Insurance HTML | PDF
  • A No-Smoking Policy Is Legal HTML | PDF
  • A No-Smoking Policy Saves on Maintenance Costs HTML | PDF
  • Seven Steps to Implement A No-Smoking Policy HTML | PDF
  • Tips for Handling Complaints Until You Have a Policy in Place HTML | PDF
  • Ventilation Is Not Always the Answer HTML | PDF
  • Legal Options for Tenants Suffering from Drifting Tobacco Smoke HTML | PDF
  • Getting Rid of the Smoke HTML | PDF
  • Smoke Free Housing Poster PDF
  • Graphs Pre/Post Tobacco Policy PDF
  • 2012 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Letter PDF

For information on how you can make your building a Breathe

Better Building, call The New Hampshire Tobacco Prevention & Control

Program at 603-271-6684/800-852-3345 Ext. 6684

Americans for Nonsmokers’ RightsVisit Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights for guidance on how to address this expensive and timely issue.

Breathe New HampshireVisit Breathe New Hampshire for information on how landlords in New Hampshire can develop policy in their properties.

To assist property managers, public health advocates and residents in their efforts to adopt smokefree multi-unit housing policies, the American Lung Association has developed Smokefree Policies in Multi-Unit Housing: Steps for Success. This free online course provides a step-by-step guide to promoting, planning and implementing a smokefree multi-unit housing policy. Steps for Success and related support materials are available on their website.