Support for Smokefree Multi-Unit Housing

A 100% smoke-free multi-unit housing (MUH) policy means a healthier life for residents, especially children, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases that include breathing disabilities, cardiac disease, diabetes and other diseases. It can also translate into lower rehab, turnover and clean-up costs, reduced fire risk and perhaps insurance rates, along with higher property values. Across the nation, the trend is for landlords, management companies and condominium associations to institute smokefree policies to eliminate environmental tobacco smoke (ETS a.k.a secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke discussed below).

Nonsmoking apartment dwellers report that they are exposed to secondhand smoke from their neighbors. The American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence released their results in April 2012. They conducted a survey by polling 323 multi-unit housing residents across the USA. Read an article about the survey that found one-third smelled secondhand smoke in their apartment buildings, and 60% of singles smelled it in their units. People in public housing apartments were more likely to be bothered by second-hand cigarette smoke than people in units that were not government supported.

"In the U.S. 400,000-1,000,000 children have their asthma condition worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke", according to Healthy Environments: A Compilation of Substances Linked to Asthma. This is a 2011 report prepared by Perkins+Will on behalf of the National Institutes of Health, Office of Research Facilities, Division of Environmental Protection that lists factors in the built environment that may cause or aggravate asthma.

Resources exist around the globe to support this endeavor. Helpful information can be found at Minnesota's Live Smoke Free website where they provide Tools for Tobacco Control Professionals working on Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing.

New The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium published in early 2014 a revised fact sheet entitled, Regulating Smoking in Multi-Unit Housing, that briefly discusses the health and economic benefits of smokefree multi-unit housing.

GASP is listed as the New Jersey resource in this August, 2012 Global Directory of Smokefree Housing Programs. We maintain a list for New Jersey of smokefree multi-unit housing. Call our office (908) 273-9368 for information in your area.

Some policies cover 100% of the MUH facility, (private units, common interior and exterior areas, outdoor property or building perimeter, by entrances, exits windows). Others designate certain sections of buildings as 100% smoke-free (interior including units, or grandfather smokers for a limited time). A poll of 810 Ontarians showed 67% support 100% smokefree apartments, condos and co-ops with the rate rising to 83% among young adults ages 18-34. Read about the poll and how demand exceeds supply of smokefree housing in this December 11, 2011 news article.

Our website discusses smokefree policies for various types of MUH housing, including detailed sections on public and market rate/private housing. Information is applicable to multi-unit residents (tenants, condominium owners, etc.), as well as landlords, property managers and management companies, developers, and housing industry professionals. Our office has model lease policies in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Somali, Hmong and Oromo. Call GASP for more details.

Click on a topic to learn more about smokefree MUH:

GASP Offers Technical Assistance

GASP offers technical assistance on how to eliminate ETS exposure in MUH:

GASP specializes in emerging issues in tobacco control. Thirdhand smoke is recognized as a new public health hazard. Thirdhand smoke is residual secondhand smoke that imbeds into upholstery, rugs, and onto walls, and other surfaces, lingering for weeks. New studies indicate that thirdhand smoke may be more dangerous than secondhand smoke, since thirdhand smoke does not dissipate quickly, and continuously emits respirable particles long after secondhand smoke takes place. Visit our webpage on Thirdhand Smoke to read more about this emerging trend in public health.

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Housing Industry Supports Smokefree Housing

MUH owners, managers and developers recognize that 100% smoke-free housing makes economic sense, plus renters are beginning to demand smokefree MUH facilities:

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Federal Government Supports Smokefree Housing

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages against exposure of children to any secondhand smoke (SHS) and advises “Make your home and car completely smoke-free.  Opening a window does not protect you or your child from secondhand smoke.” Read more about t the CDC's website.

In 2012, NCHH, the Center for Housing Policy, ChangeLab Solutions, and Trust for America’s Health released a call for greater collaboration between the public health and housing communities in the paper,“ Housing and Health: New Opportunities for Dialogue and Action.” This paper summarizes the health effects of housing quality, housing affordability, physical neighborhood attributes, and social and community attributes, and recommends a coordinated and integrated approach among housing, environmental health, and public health agencies to help improve the health of children, older adults, and other community members. See page 3 of this paper, which discusses SHS as hazard, according to the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council which is a collaboration between 17 federal agencies and offices, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In June 2011, The Council iissued a National Prevention Strategy. The strategy identifies Tobacco Free Living as one of the seven evidence-based recommendations. Read the CDC pubilshed fact sheet Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Multi-Unit Housing Facilities is Detrimental to the Health of Children and Nonsmoking Adults.

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Economic Benefits of Smokefree Housing

Read this April 13, 2013 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which concludes:

"Prohibiting smoking in all U.S. subsidized housing would yield cost-savings of approximately $521 million per year, including $341 million in SHS-related healthcare expenditures, $108 million in renovation expenses, and $72 million in smoking-attributable fire losses. Prohibiting smoking in U.S. public housing alone would yield cost-savings of approximately $154 million per year"

On August 18, 2011, the American Journal of Public Health published a UCLA School of Medicine study which analyzed smoking-related costs in multi-unit housing in California. Researchers surveyed 343 California Apartment Association (CAA) members. Read the UCLA press release. Findings of the study were:

Creating a smokefree MUH policy saves money and time for property managers and landlords by reducing operating costs and offering incentives for loans, grants and tax-credits.

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Scientific Studies Support the Need for Smokefree Housing

The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General issued a December 2010 report on how tobacco use causes disease, concluding that even occasional exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful and damage is immediate. The report states, "No one should have to breathe secondhand smoke at work or in public places, and parents should ensure that homes, cars and other places frequented by children are smoke-free." "Federal, state and local policymakers need to step up their efforts to implement proven measures that reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke." Visit our webpage to learn more about the Report and its findings, conclusions and recommendations. Learn about the Office of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes in the Section below, Information Specific to Public and Affordable Housing.

Four out of five U.S. adults report having voluntary smoke-free rules in their homes and three out of four report having voluntary smoke-free rules in their vehicles, according to a May 16, 2013 study, Smoke-Free Rules and Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Homes and Vehicles Among US Adults, 2009–2010, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Adult Tobacco Survey respondents were classified as having smoke-free rules if they never allow smoking inside their homes or vehicles. The study is the first to present estimates of smoke-free rules and secondhand smoke exposure in vehicles among U.S. adults. Despite the high prevalence of voluntary smoke-free rules in homes and vehicles, the study found that almost 11 million non-smoking adults continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in their home, and almost 17 million non-smoking adults continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in a vehicle. The study also contains state-by-state data showing that the highest prevalence of smoke-free rules in homes and vehicles occurred in many states with comprehensive smoke-free laws and longstanding tobacco control programs. Many of the states with the lowest prevalence of smoke-free rules in homes and vehicles are states with a high prevalence of adult smoking.

Read a March 13, 2013 USA Today news article about a study that shows smoke infiltrates non-smoking rooms when smoking occurs in a hotel. A new study to be published in The Tobacco Control Journal finds smoke residue on surfaces and in the air of both smoking and non-smoking rooms in 30 California hotels where smoking is allowed. Levels were highest in the smoking rooms, but levels in non-smoking rooms were much higher than those found at 10 smoke-free hotels.

Read a January 31, 2013 news article about a study conducted using data collected in 2011 from non-smoking Boston Housing Authority (BHA) residents to assess their levels of cotinine, a biomarker of secondhand smoke. "Tobacco smoke exposure in a sample of Boston public housing residents," published January 2013 in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, found elevated cotinine levels in non-smokers living in the BHA units, and the elevated levels of continine were higher than among nonsmoking Americans nationally. In October 2012 BHA moved to protect this highly exposed group of residents by implementing a no-smoking policy for public housing units. Read more about BHA's smokefree policy on our public housing webpage.

Read about a September 2012 study from researchers at Northumbria University who found that non-smokers who were exposed to second-hand smoke forgot almost 20% more in memory tests than those non-smokers not exposed. Although, both groups out-performed the current smokers who forgot 30% more than those who were not exposed to second-hand smoke.

An April 2012 study from the University of Colorado about secondhand smoke seepage in smoking-permitted apartments has found that smoking permeates to non-smoking areas including residences and hallways if the building permits smoking. Building regulations only seemed to have an appreciable impact on secondhand smoke if they involved total bans, the survey found. Secondhand smoke smells in public spaces was as much of a problem in buildings featuring common-area-only bans as they were in buildings featuring no restrictions whatsoever. Read a HealthDay article about the study.

A February 27, 2012 study done in Portland, Oregon and published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco concluded that a smokefree policy was associated with positive changes in cessation-related behaviors and reduced secondhand smoke exposure for the older low-income adult populution of the residence. Findings from this study support the efforts of housing providers and agencies across the nation that are promoting smoke-free environments in multiunit housing by reporting sharply increased self-reported quit rates and reduced cigarette consumption.

Read the abstract of a 2012 published study in the Tobacco Control Journal that found continued disparities in protection from secondhand smoke for children living in households with single parents, low income, current smoker parents, less educated parents or households without infants. According to the study, these groups have not benefited from home smoking bans, whereas overall, the prevalence of a complete home smoking bans increased from 58.1% to 83.8% according to data used from 1995-2007.

According to research presented at the American Public Health Association 139th Annual Meeting which began October 29, 2011, older people who are exposed to second-hand smoke have significantly lower scores on cognitive performance tests than those who are not exposed. Read a Medscape article about the study.

On October 26, 2011 researcher James Repace, MSc, Biophysicist, presented measured results on migration of secondhand smoke into neighboring apartment units at the International Society of Exposure Science 21st Annual meeting in Baltimore, MD. The study, entitled "Smoke Infiltration in Multi-Family Dwellings - Monthly Average Nicotine Concentrations and Symptomatic Effects in Nonsmoking Residents", used measurements from passive nicotine monitors placed in non-smokers' residences. Participants had filed complaints citing smoking-related irritations which were categorized into respiratory ailments, ears, nose and throat irritations, central nervous system complaints, or tachycardia. The findings reiterate the health impact of secondhand smoke seeping into non-smoker units. Read the presentation which concludes, "Smoke-free policies and legislation are needed to protect apartment dwellers from secondhand smoke infiltration."

Read a study published in Indoor Air February 2011 which measured involuntary exposure to SHS and found it can be reduced but not eliminated by modifying existing, occupied, multiunit buildings. Many air leakage paths cannot practicably be sealed after construction is complete or when the unit is occupied.

The January 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics published a study by the University of Rochester Medical Center and MassGeneral Hospital that shows significant evidence of tobacco smoke exposure in the blood of children from smokefree apartments who live in a smoking-permitted MUH building. View the press release announcing this study and the abstract from the published study.

A global study published November 26, 2010 in the British medical journal Lancet estimates 165,000 children younger than 5 years old die each year from lower respiratory infections caused mainly by secondhand smoke exposure at home. The study concludes that, "Voluntary smoke-free home policies reduce exposure of children and adult non-smokers to second-hand smoke, reduce smoking in adults, and seem to reduce smoking in youths." Read a New York Times article with highlights from the study.

A Roswell Park Cancer Institute study published October 1, 2010 demonstrated secondhand smoke exposure can occur in units where non-smokers reside and in shared hallways where smoking is prohibited. The study concludes "...the implementation of a smoke-free building policy represents the most effective way to ensure that residents of MUH units are not exposed to SHS."

See below for additional studies on the need for smokefree public housing.

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Smokefree Housing Reduces Risk of Fires, Injuries and Deaths

In a March 29, 2014 Star-Ledger story, The NJ Division of Fire Safety concludes that 17% of all NJ fire deaths from 2007-2012 are smoking related, or 77 deaths are from careless smoking. Nationwide, smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires from 2007-2011, accounting for 22% of fires where a civilian died, according to the National Fire Protection Association. View charts and graphs and read the story.

Read FEMA's 2012 Smoking-Related Fires in Residential Buildings Report (data used from 2008-2010) which shows that an estimated 7,600 smoking-related fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 365 deaths, 925 injuries, and $326 million in property loss. While smoking-related fires account for only 2 percent of all residential building fires, they are a leading cause of fire deaths, accounting for 14 percent of fire deaths in residential buildings. In addition, cigarettes are, by far, the leading type of smoking material involved in residential smoking fires and account for 86 percent of these fires.

In 2005, Smoking was the leading cause of residential structure fires (25%) that resulted in older adult fatalities, according to the U.S. Fire Administration/National Fire Data Center report, “Residential Fires and Older Adult Casualties”. Cigarettes were the primary heat sources for upholstered furniture and bedding fires, consistent with smoking fires as the leading cause of fires with older adult fatalities. Thirty-nine percent of older adults killed in residential structure fires were asleep when the fire started; 32% of older adults were trying to escape when they died. Read a December 2010 Working Paper by the Massachusetts National Bureau of Economic Research which discusses the relationship between cigarette smoking and fires caused by cigarettes. Visit FEMAs website for smoking-related information on fire prevention. Read the news articles below of fires started by cigarette ash.

  1. Read a February 19, 2013 news article about a residential fire in Hoboken caused by blowing ash from a cigarette.
  2. Read a November 20, 201 news article about a fire started from burning ash thrown into a trash bin.
  3. Read a July 30, 2012 Toms River Patch news article about a residential fire caused by a cigarette.

Creating 100% smokefree policies reduces the risk of fire in MUH, especially in buildings that house tenants using medical oxygen for health reasons (seniors and children with asthma, COPD, etc). A tenant on portable oxygen has compomised pulmonary functioning and needs a 100% smokefree living environment, including not only their apartment, but also neighboring apartments, common areas, and building entrances and exits. Learn more about the hazards of smoking near the operation of portable oxygen equipment.

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Disability Accommodations May Require Smokefree Housing

A tenant who is classified as breathing-disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act or state anti-discrimination law (e.g. New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination), whether or not using portable oxygen, may require a reasonable accommodation of a 100% smokefree unit, floor or building, along with egress into/from such building. A person may temporarily qualify as disabled, such as asthmatic or COPD onset due to secondhand smoke exposure. A person may also be qualified as disabled, even if medications or equipment help to mitigate their disabled condition.

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Laws Restricting Smoking in Multi-Unit Housing

Introduced in February, 2013, the state of California is reviewing Assembly Bill 746 which would restrict smoking in apartments and condominiums with shared walls, floors, ceilings or ventilation systems. According to this March 17, 2013 Sacramento Bee editorial, 29 California cities and counties already ban smoking in apartments and condos.

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Last update: 4/1/14