About Smokefree Multi-Unit Housing
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even low levels of secondhand smoke can be harmful. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to completely eliminate smoking in indoor spaces. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot completely eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke (4).
It only takes one smoker in a multi-unit building to cause health problems for everyone. You have the right to breathe clean air.
What can a resident do about other people’s smoke?
Communication is important when trying to address the issue of secondhand smoke. Shared spaces often require rules and regulations to benefit the entire community and it’s important to keep the focus on health and wellness. Fortunately, more and more apartment buildings are adopting smoke-free policies which will help show landlords a smoke-free policy is an amenity that renters want.
- Talk to your neighbors that smoke. Maybe they don’t realize other people are being affected by their smoke and would be willing to limit smoking to the outdoors. Remember, smoking is not a civil liberty and is not protected under the constitution. There is no “right to smoke.” And when someone else’s tobacco habit is impacting your health you have the right to advocate for yourself.
- Talk to your landlord or building manger. Discuss your concerns and ask what can be done to limit your exposure to secondhand smoke. Tell them you would support a smoke-free policy. Remind the management that smoke-free policies are legal and even beneficial to both the residents and property owners.
- Read your lease agreement. Typically, leases have nuisance clauses to curb loud noise or limit pets on the property. Renters have the right to a quiet, peaceful environment and secondhand smoke is a nuisance the landlord needs to address.
- Talk to your other non-smoking neighbors. Considering most Americans do not smoke (80%) you are likely to find other residents that feel the same and may help encourage the management to make changes to the smoking policy.
- Keep a log. Track the dates and times that smoke is infiltrating your apartment. Note where the smoke is coming from, how it’s getting in to your unit (if you know) and how it is affecting your health. It’s useful to document the extent of the problem to show landlords and owners that secondhand smoke really is a problem. If you are experiencing health problems related to secondhand smoke make sure to have your doctor document it as well.
Resources for Condominium Owners
Dealing with secondhand smoke in your home will require many of the same steps whether you rent or own. If you own a condominium, townhouse, or space in a multi-unit building, you have different legal options than those who rent. The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium has written Legal Options for Condominium Owners Exposed to Secondhand Smoke.
Smokefree Public Housing
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) now prohibits the use of cigarettes, cigars and pipes in all public housing units and common areas, as well as any outdoor areas up to 25 feet from public housing and administrative office buildings.
For more information about smokefree public housing and multifamily properties, visit the HUD website at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/healthy_homes/smokefree.