Do You Have A Smoke-Free Policy That Adequately Protects Residents?

Landlord Hank what do i do about second-hand smoke in my apartment?

Have you thought about your smoke-free policy or no-smoking policy and whether it adequately protects residents who need a smoke-free environment? The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on this issue and new HUD rules for smoke-free policies in public housing.

By Ellen Clark

More and more rental properties across the country are adopting smoke-free policies with the goal of improving air quality, reducing the fire risk, and lowering maintenance costs.

Even with no-smoking policies in place in many apartment complexes, research indicates that many of the nearly 80 million Americans who live in multiunit housing experience secondhand smoke infiltration in their living unit that originated from elsewhere in or around their building.

For tenant in apartment buildings and condominiums, secondhand smoke can be a major concern. It can migrate from other units and common areas and travel through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation systems.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all multi-unit housing in the United States adopt smoke free policies in order to protect residents from the very serious health hazards caused by drifting tobacco smoke.

“There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke, and even brief exposure can cause immediate harm,” the CDC says.

What the CDC says about multifamily housing

“Multi-unit housing residents are particularly susceptible to involuntary secondhand smoke exposure in the home. Environmental studies indicate that secondhand smoke constituents can infiltrate units where no smoking occurs (eg, units whose residents have adopted smoke-free home rules) from units and shared areas where smoking is permitted,” the CDC says.

“Nearly 7 million U.S. multiunit housing residents live in government subsidized housing, including approximately 2 million in public housing either owned or operated by a government housing authority. The potential for secondhand smoke exposure in public or subsidized housing is of particular concern because a large proportion of these units are occupied by people who are particularly sensitive to secondhand smoke, including children (45%), the elderly (41%), and the disabled (25%).

All Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) administering low-income, conventional public housing were required to have a smoke-free policy in place by July 31, 2018.

In December of 2016, HUD published a final rule requiring Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) administering low-income, conventional public housing to implement policies.

The rule went into effect in February of 2017, but there is an 18-month implementation period, meaning that all PHAs must have a smoke-free policy in place by July 31, 2018. This rule applies to all public housing except dwelling units in mixed-finance buildings.

The rule says that each PHA must implement a smoke-free policy banning the use of prohibited tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas, PHA administrative office buildings, and outdoor areas within 25 feet of any building on public housing grounds.

Note that the rule does not prohibit residents of PHAs from smoking. In fact, PHAs can establish outdoor designated smoking areas beyond the required 25 feet perimeter to accommodate residents who smoke. PHAs may also establish additional smoke-free locations, or they can even make their entire grounds smoke-free.

HUD rules on smoking could help any apartment community

While this rule applies to public housing (except dwelling units in mixed-finance buildings), the materials that HUD has assembled to help PHAs comply with this rule may be very helpful to any community that is thinking about, or in some stage of implementing, a smoke-free policy.

More rental properties across the country are adopting smoke-free policies. If you are one of those properties, here are some great resources HUD has put together to help PHAs implement smoke-free policies that may also be helpful to you.

    • Implementing HUD’s Smoke-Free Policy in Public Housing includes strategies for communicating with residents, examples of smoke-free policies and enforcement plans, tips for training staff, helpful information for launching a smoke-free policy, and guidance on responding to requests for accommodation.

There is more available on the Healthy Homes section of HUD’s website. Take some time to look around – you might find just what you are looking for!

Also, the American Lung Association worked with experts around the United States to develop an online curriculum on how to implement a smoke free policy in multifamily housing properties like apartments and condominiums.

    • Communicate the health and economic impact of secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing.
    • Engage with building managers, property owners, policymakers, residents and other stakeholders to adopt smoke-free multi-unit housing policies.
    • Plan and implement a successful smoke-free multi-unit housing policy.
    • Identify resident rights and responsibilities, as well as options for providing services to help smokers quit.

Group Says Multifamily Should Ban Smoking Inside and Near Buildings


About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.

Do You Have A Smoke-Free Policy That Adequately Protects Residents?


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