Ending the Tobacco Problem - Resources for Local Action
Institute of Medicine

Call To Action


 

Smoke-Free Multiunit Housing

 

Secondhand smoke in apartment and condominium buildings is a clear health hazard, but there are steps that can be taken to eliminate this problem. Making multiunit apartment and condominium buildings smoke-free is completely legal and economically advantageous. It reduces the risk of apartment fires, reduces the cost of taking care of units which used to house smokers, and it is generally easy to enforce. With a combined effort it is not difficult to make multiunit apartment and condominium buildings completely smoke-free (see below for steps you can take).

 

Community Action: An Example of Success

 

At the beginning of 2004, there were almost no smoke-free apartment or condominium buildings anywhere in Michigan. By the end of 2007, however, thousands of apartments and condominiums all over the state were smoke-free, including apartments for low-income families. This remarkable turnaround was accomplished with the help of the Smoke-Free Environmental Law Project (SFELP) [1].SFELP works with local health departments and community organizations to show landlords that becoming smoke-free is lawful and beneficial.

 

There has generally been resistance toward smoking bans in homes, even in multiunit apartment and condominium buildings where secondhand smoke can travel into other units. The Smoke Free Environments Law Project began advocating for smoke-free apartments and condominiums by addressing the following misperceptions and barriers:

  • Owners and landlords do not think it is legal
  • Fear that that smokers will move out and units will remain empty
  • Uncertainty about how to transition buildings and units from smoking to smoke-free status
  • Uncertainty about how to enforce smoke-free policies
  • The demand for smoke-free housing has lagged behind other smoke-free campaigns, such as restaurants, workplaces, etc.

The first major barrier for SFELP to overcome was the legality of making such units smoke-free. It consulted the Michigan Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to confirm that making apartment and condominium building smoke-free was legal. The Michigan Attorney General in 1992 stated that “neither federal nor Michigan law prohibits a landlord from making his/her apartment building totally smoke-free.” [2]

 

The next major concern was that landlords would not be able fill all of their units if they went completely smoke-free. Almost 80 percent of adults in Michigan are non-smokers, and the 2005 Michigan Adult Tobacco Survey found that almost three-quarters of adults in Michigan said smoking was not allowed in their home. Although most people did not want smoke in their homes, most apartment and condominium buildings still allowed smoking.

 

Steps to Create a Smoke-Free Building

 

Transitioning to a completely smoke-free building is easy. Here are some easy steps to take in order to make a building smoke-free:

  • Establish a date after which all new residents will not be allowed to smoke inside.
  • Decide how much time current residents will have to transition to being smoke-free. This should include adding smoke-free language to new or pre-existing leases.
  • Develop language to add to the “house rules” in public Housing Authority buildings

[1] http://www.tcsg.org/sfelp/home.htm

[2] http://www.ag.state.mi.us/opinion/datafiles/1990s/op06719.htm


Reference: Bergman, J (2007) Making smoke-free multi-unit housing the norm in Michigan Powerpoint presentation