Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing

Why Implement A Smoke Free Multiunit Housing Policy?


Protect the Health & Safety of Residents & Staff

  • There is no safe level of secondhand smoke and is proven to be a carcinogen to humans and animals. Secondhand smoke contains many toxic poisons like carbon monoxide, nicotine, ammonia, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides, phenol, and more.  Secondhand smoke has been classified as a Class A carcinogen since 1992. Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, cancer, chronic pulmonary disease, and other lung, heart, and respiratory conditions.  Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous to children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer respiratory illnesses, ear infections, hospitalizations, and sudden infant death syndrome4. The main place that children breathe secondhand smoke is in their home. Almost 3 million children in the U.S. under the age of 6 breathe secondhand smoke at home at least 4 days a week2.  Not only are residents at risk, but workers that frequent the buildings experience the same effects. It is concluded by the Surgeon General that there is no way to keep children and adults safe from secondhand smoke until all indoor smoking is banned.
  • Smoking inside of a home is the leading cause of fire death3. Approximately 1,000 people die annually due to smoke related fires and thousands more are injured.  Banning smoking inside will eliminate this risk, and may even help reduce insurance premiums4.

Cost Savings

  • Smoking in the home can result in many damages. Smoke travels and between cleaning, paint, flooring, appliances, and bathroom cleaning it can cost 2 to 7 times more to rehabilitate a home where smoking was permitted than where smoking was not permitted.  By implementing a smoke free policy in subsidized housing alone, approximately $521 million can be saved.  This figure breaks down into $341 million in secondhand smoke health care costs, $108 million in renovation expenses, and $72 million in smoke related fire costs.  Cost savings for public housing amounts to an estimated annual $154 million4.
  • Implementing a smoke free policy not only shows tenants that they and their health are valued, but it also shows responsibility, and that minimizing risk is a priority.  This fact can possibly lead to lower insurance premiums1.

Secondhand Smoke Movement/Seepage Cannot Be Controlled or Eliminated

  • Secondhand smoke quickly passes through air ducts, vents, light fixtures, sewage pipes, and cracks to other units. Even outside smoke can easily be blown in through windows, doorways, and common areas. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers state that there is no way to eliminate the movement of secondhand smoke1.  There is no ventilation system or other air filtration devise that can eliminate the health risks of secondhand smoke exposure. Having a smoke free building and grounds is the only way to eliminate this exposure and prevent the damage4.

Smoke Free Housing is Preferred

  • ¼ of Americans live in multi-unit housing, and of this quarter, a vast majority (including people who smoke), 80%, prefer smoke free homes, and many state willingness to pay more to have homes that are smoke free4.  In fact even when it is permitted and they do smoke, they implement their own no smoking policy in the home.  Specifically to STTAC’s catchment area, as of 2013, the majority, 58%, of residents preferred prohibiting indoor smoking everywhere inside of their buildings.  Going smoke free will satisfy a demand and give you market advantage1.

Smokers Are Not a Protected Class

  • The U.S. constitution does not guarantee the right to smoke, making prohibiting smoking policies legal.  Smokers are not a protected class, and smoke free housing policies are not discriminatory. Smoke free policies are not made to evict people and are not anti-smoker. Instead, they are anti-smoking and are in place to prohibit smoking in the building.  These policies are similar to pet policies and noise ordinances3.

 As of Oct 25, 2014, HUD rolled out a new smoke free housing toolkit for public and multifamily housing.  Find this tool kit at



1Tobacco Control Legal Consortium. Regulating Smoking in Multi-Unit Housing.           


2American Lung Association.

3Steps to Smoke-free Housing NY.

4HUD. Change Is In The Air. (2014). P. 10-17.  



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