Making the Case for Smokefree Multi-Unit Housing

(September 30, 2011)

Most people know that secondhand smoke is a serious health threat for both children and adults. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure.  For people who live in multi-unit housing properties such as apartment buildings and condominiums, a building- or property-wide smokefree policy is crucial to protecting everyone from secondhand smoke’s harmful effects.

Because people spend so much time in their homes, making multi-unit housing smokefree plays an important role in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke from one unit or from a common area can migrate throughout the entire building by traveling through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation systems. While residents can prohibit smoking in their own units, adopting a smokefree policy for a multi-unit housing building or property will ensure that secondhand smoke does not threaten the lives and health of all residents. These policies also benefit property managers and owners by lowering fire risks and the associated insurance premiums and by reducing the amount of maintenance required before new tenants move in. A smokefree policy is even a selling feature since many people prefer smokefree properties when searching for housing.

To assist property managers, public health advocates and residents in their efforts to adopt smokefree multi-unit housing policies, the American Lung Association has developed Smokefree Policies in Multi-Unit Housing: Steps for Success. This free online course provides a step-by-step guide to promoting, planning and implementing a smokefree multi-unit housing policy. Steps for Success and related support materials are available on our website at

Smokefree policies are a winning proposition for multi-unit housing residents, owners, and property managers. The American Lung Association strongly supports smokefree multi-unit housing policies and encourages property managers and building owners to go smokefree for the health of residents and for the cost savings to their bottom line.