Smoke-Free Housing: A Smart Investment

Posted by  //  May 25, 2016  //  Articles

Throughout New York State and across the country, apartment owners are embracing a no-smoking policy as an amenity they can provide for their residents. Why? Smoke-free buildings save money, attract tenants, protect lives and property, and can safeguard against liability.

Smoke drifting from lit tobacco products and/or exhaled by smokers seeps into the living spaces of other tenants and common areas of residential buildings. Tobacco smoke travels through lighting fixtures, cracks in walls, around plumbing, under doors and shared heating/ventilation. Tobacco smoke is a class A carcinogen, like radon and asbestos.

Besides protecting tenants, including children and persons with illnesses made worse by tobacco smoke exposure, property owners can avoid the excess building maintenance costs caused by smoking.  Apartments that have been smoked in often require extensive cleaning, repainting, and repair and replacement of floors and countertops. Additionally, smoking materials are a leading cause of fires in multi-unit buildings and the leading cause of fire deaths in the nation.

Adopting smoke-free apartment building policies are legal and a way to avoid possible secondhand smoke lawsuits.  An increasing number of tobacco smoke and housing cases are being heard in the courts.  Tenants with pre-existing physical conditions aggravated by tobacco smoke may file complaints under the Fair Housing Act.

The Centers for Disease Control released a new study that shows nearly $500 million could be saved every year if smoking were universally banned in subsidized and public housing.  No smoking policies would yield huge annual savings to taxpayers, employers, the federal government, state governments and others.  The savings would be largest in New York State, where an annual $125 million would be saved.

Under the Housing and Urban Development proposed rule, public housing authorities would implement a policy prohibiting lit tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars or pipes) in all living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices and all outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings. Final rules have yet to come forward.  In anticipation of the rule, many New York State public housing authorities have already implemented smoke-free policies,  including the most recent Syracuse, Buffalo and Saratoga Springs Housing Authorities.

For more information about smoke-free housing, visit www.smokefreehousingny.org.

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