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.
What housing providers need to know to go smoke-free. This video from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) covers benefits and obstacles and how to address them. It presents tips to enforcing a policy and shows how a resident family of smokers adapted to the policy.
- Enforce policy and evict tenants who violated their lease agreement
Smoke-free subsidized housing would save $521 million a year
Savings in health care costs alone estimated at almost $350 million a year
The estimated annual cost savings from eliminating smoking in all U.S. subsidized housing would be $521 million, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the first study to estimate the costs that could be saved by prohibiting smoking in subsidized housing, including public housing and other rental assistance programs. The bulk of those annual savings – $341 million – would come from reduced health care expenditures related to secondhand smoke. The study also estimates savings of $108 million in annual renovation expenses and $72 million in annual smoking-related fire loses. Read more at CDC.
Monadnock Smoke-Free Housing Directory
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:
- 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
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 www.no-smoke.org for helpful guides and suggestions.
Visit Public Health Law & Policy to learn about Legal Options for Tenants Suffering from Secondhand Tobacco Smoke www.phlpnet.org/tobacco-control/products/legal-options-tenants
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 www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/tobacco/documents/complaint.pdf
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 LandlordsPDF
- American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Smoke Exposure Study HTML|PDF
- A No-Smoking Policy Protects Health & Saves Money 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 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 Graphs_prePost_tobaccoPolicy
- 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
Visit Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights for guidance on how to address this expensive and timely issue.
Visit 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.
Live Smoke Free has a Model Smoke-Free Lease Addendum that was developed out of a team of housing lawyers in MN and was updated by Warren Ortland at the Public Health Law Center in St. Paul, MN. The lease is available in English, Hmong, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. You can download all of the leases under “Policy Adoption Materials.”