Smoking has significantly fallen out of fashion in the U.S. The number of Americans who smoke is at the lowest rate in over seventy years. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), only 11.5% of American adults smoke cigarettes in 2021. That’s down from 41% in 1940 and 26% in 2000. Smoking is prohibited in indoor public spaces in 28 states and banned in any establishment that serves minors in another 12 states.
Following national trends toward non-smoking, more and more property owners and managers are turning their properties 100% smoke-free. A smoke-free property is one where smoking is prohibited anywhere in the building and its immediate premises or is limited to a specified outdoor area. There are significant health and financial benefits of smoke-free properties for residents and property owners alike.
Banish secondhand smoke!
The negative health effects of secondhand smoke are well documented. If one unit in a multi-unit dwelling is occupied by a smoker, other residents are at risk for secondhand smoke exposure. The NYC Coalition for Smoke-Free Housing estimates that 65% of air is shared between units due to air movement through open windows or doors, via electrical ducting or shared ventilation systems, and through gaps around window frames, floorboards, or ceilings. The only way to protect residents from secondhand smoke is to designate your properties as smoke-free.
Smoking raises blood pressure… and your turnover costs!
Renting to smokers will cost you a surprising amount when it comes to maintenance and cleaning costs. According to a study conducted by MultiFamily Insider, it is three times more expensive to rehabilitate a unit previously occupied by a smoker than a non-smoker, on average.
In order to rid a unit of the lingering smell of smoke, expect to repaint the entire unit including the ceiling. You’ll also need to deep-clean and possibly replace carpet and padding. The same goes for baseboards, lighting fixtures, cabinets, appliances, and closet organization systems. In severe cases, an ozone treatment may be required to eliminate the smell of smoke from the heating and cooling units. Going smoke-free makes a big difference during turnover.
Smoke-free apartments have lowered fire risks.
Smoking is the leading cause of residential home fires in the U.S, according to The National Fire Protection Association. From 2012 to 2016, the agency reported that one in 20 home structure fires (5%) were started by smoking materials. These fires caused almost one in four (23%) home fire deaths, and one in 10 (10%) home fire injuries.
Turning your properties smoke-free greatly reduces the risk of fire, and ensures resident safety. Insurance companies offer credits and discounts for smoke-free properties, often as much as 10% annually. Smoke-free apartments can result in significant yearly savings for property owners.
How about e-cigarettes?
So we’ve just 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 have turned to 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 as well.
E-cigarettes are battery powered vaporizer devices that allow a user to inhale nicotine-filled water or oil-based vapor. E-cigarettes are growing in popularity and are touted as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. Most users see e-cigs as a stepping stone to quitting nicotine altogether.
The FDA is currently continuing to investigate the risks and benefits of e-cigarette use, after popularity skyrocketed in the past decade. To date, the FDA has authorized 23 tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices, which are the only e-cigarettes that currently may be lawfully sold or distributed in the U.S.
Smokers see e-cigs as no big deal
E-cigarettes appeared a little over 15 years ago and didn’t gain significant popularity until the past decade. 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.
Smoke-free indoor air laws include e-cigarettes
As of December 2022, 17 states have site specific smoking bans that explicitly include e-cigarettes in places such as college campuses, state workplaces, 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 that have passed legislation prohibiting e-cigarette use as part of established Smoke-Free Air Campaigns include New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the District of Columbia. They have banned e-cigs in smoke-free settings, including multi-unit residential buildings.
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. 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.
Going smoke-free is your right.
Choosing to turn a property smoke-free is a simple, largely self-enforcing process. There are no federal, state, or county laws that prohibit property managers and owners from choosing a smoke-free policy.
Smokers are not included in housing discrimination policies, and providing an outdoor area for smokers is an easy way to prevent complaints from residents who smoke. Just make your smoke-free policy clear to please both parties.
With healthy lifestyle trends picking up lately, however, it could benefit you to go smoke-free when renting out your home. Some states even offer incentive programs and tax credits to developers who choose to implement smoke-free policies in their properties.