Secondhand smoke (SHS) is the third leading cause of preventable disease in the U.S. and a leading cause of acute and chronic disease. Secondhand smoke can negatively affect residents in multi-unit housing, apartment complexes, and condominiums. For example, it may seep from one unit to another through crevices or shared ventilation systems.
Secondhand smoke not only causes discomfort and annoyance, it also is a serious health hazard. There is no risk-free level of exposure to SHS, and children are often the most affected.
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services Secondhand Smoke Guide for Residents includes information about SHS; steps to take when exposed to SHS; and frequently asked questions, such as what to tell landlords when exposed, how to temporarily reduce exposure, and where to find smoke-free communities.
If residents are exposed to SHS, they should quickly inform their landlords. Residents may also contact their local health department.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Smoking & Tobacco Use: Secondhand Smoke (SHS) Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/index.htm.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Smoking & Tobacco Use: Tobacco-Related Mortality. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/index.htm
Discover ways to reduce SHS exposure and how to tell landlords about SHS-related problems.
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Smoke-free policies protect residents from SHS exposure and property from damage. Much like in worksites and public places, smoke-free policies do not ban people who smoke from being on the premises. Rather, they prohibit the act of smoking on the property.
No. In fact, property managers often save money with smoke-free policies. Not only can policies draw more tenants, but they can also prevent costly property damages. For example, proper cleanup includes removing tobacco residue from walls, furniture and carpets in addition to repairing singe marks. Moreover, it lessens the likelihood of fires and associated damage.
No. Smoking is an elected activity, which is not a protected class under federal law. Renting to someone who smokes or uses tobacco products is allowed if a smoke-free policy is in place, but the tenant must abide by the guidelines laid out in the policy. Under Utah law, property managers have the right to tell residents they cannot smoke in areas outlined in the policy.
Yes. According to federal, state, and city laws and court rulings, tenants who don’t smoke have the right to be free from the health hazards of SHS. As such, property owners may implement total smoke-free policies. Rather than being sued for no-smoking policies by people who smoke, property managers are more likely to be sued by non-smokers for hazards caused by SHS. In federally subsidized housing, it is unlawful to refuse residence to someone who smokes. However, it is lawful to prohibit smoking on the premises. It is also lawful to advertise as “smoke-free” or as a “no smoking facility.”
Yes. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires all public housing to have smoke-free policies. This rule protects the health of residents and staff, as well as lowers maintenance costs, and reduces the risk of fire. Although the HUD rule does not include electronic cigarettes and vaping, Utah law does consider using these devices as “smoking.” As such, many public housing authorities include vape products in their no-smoking policies. Learn more about the HUD rule here.
No. It is easier to enforce a smoke-free policy than it is to mediate conflict between people who smoke and those who do not. “No Smoking” signs set expectations and decrease the need for management to intervene.
According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, 75% of tenants prefer smoke-free housing. While some residents may leave, it is likely that more residents will be drawn to a smoke-free environment.
Secondhand smoke not only causes discomfort and annoyance, it’s a serious health hazard.
Air filtration and ventilation systems do not eliminate health hazards caused by secondhand smoke. Residents have a right to live in an environment that is free from the risks of secondhand smoke and may advocate for smoke-free policies at their housing complex. Residents who are negatively affected by secondhand smoke may have the right to seek legal action. In that case, here are important things to know:
Many landlords may not be aware that secondhand smoke is a problem in their buildings. Direct them to the landlord section of this website where they will learn about the many benefits of a no-smoking policy. The Multiunit Housing Tool Kit is also an excellent resource.
As a renter, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services Secondhand Smoke Guide for Residents includes information about secondhand smoke; tips for enforcement; frequently asked questions; information about what you can do if there’s already a problem; and information about how to talk to your landlord, make temporary fixes, and help you find a smoke-free community.