Should E-Cigarettes Be Banned in Rental Housing?

We’ve talked about the benefits of instituting smoke-free policies in your properties and covered the specific reasons why smoking tobacco in a rental unit lowers the quality of life for residents and costs more money during turnover. As the percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes continues to decline, many former smokers to turn e-cigarettes for a seemingly safer way to get a nicotine fix. As they become more popular, property managers must decide whether or not to ban e-cigarette use in rental properties.

E-cigarettes are popular

E-cigarettes are battery powered vaporizer devices that allow a user to inhale nicotine filled water vapor. E-cigarettes are growing in popularity and are touted as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, and a stepping stone to quitting nicotine altogether.

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that deliver nicotine via water vapor.
E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that deliver nicotine via water vapor.

The FDA is currently investigating the risks and benefits to e-cigarette use, after popularity skyrocketed in the past five years. An official FDA report on e-cigarettes could take more than a year, and in the meantime property owners are left on their own to decide whether or not to include a ban on e-cigarettes in a smoke-free property policy.

Smokers see e-cigs as no big deal

E-cigarettes appeared a little over ten years ago and didn’t gain significant popularity until the past four years. Smokers and former smokers consider e-cigs to be a healthy alternative to smoking that barely counts as smoking at all. To this cohort, the nicotine vapor doesn’t pose the same risks as secondhand smoke, and many people shamelessly use their e-cigs in places where traditional cigarettes are banned.

Some states bans exist

Eleven states have site specific smoking bans that explicitly include e-cigarettes in places such as college campuses, state workplaces, and publicly owned land. Another 225 counties all across the U.S. ban e-cigarettes in restaurants, bars, workplaces, and gambling facilities. Some major metropolitan areas recently passed legislation prohibiting e-cigarette use as part of established Smoke-Free Air Campaigns. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the District of Columbia banned e-cigs in smoke-free settings, including multi-unit residential buildings.

Whether or not e-cigarettes are banned is up for debate.
Some states treat e-cigarettes like any other form of tobacco.

What does this mean for property managers?

Property managers and owners are well within their rights to prohibit e-cigarette use in a smoke-free property. The National Apartment Association does not have a formal policy on e-cigarettes, and supports the choices of individual property managers as long as they follow federal, state, and local laws. Some property owners may prefer to wait until the FDA presents official findings on the risks of e-cigarette use, while others will include them in existing smoking bans immediately.

Make your smoke-free policy clear

Because of the wide difference in public opinion regarding e-cigarettes, residents may not realize they are included in a smoking ban. Smoking bans are largely self-enforcing, so it is important to use clear and concise language detailing what forms of tobacco are prohibited in your property.

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Elizabeth Hayes

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By Elizabeth Hayes

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