Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of residential fires, but it doesn't just impact those who smoke. Second-hand smoke exposure kills 44,000 people every year, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Second-hand smoke disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations, like children and seniors, as well as low-income residents. It's an ongoing problem, particularly in multi-unit housing settings, such as apartment complexes. One-third of California residents live in multi-unit housing. Healthy Works is working with landlords, owners and property managers to implement smoke free policies.

Many cities have adopted policies to protect their residents from second-hand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing. The County of San Diego implemented a smoke-free policy in 121 public housing units in 2011. Not long after that, in June 2013, the San Diego Housing Commission adopted a smoke free policy for all of their apartments, which provide more than 2,000 affordable housing units to low-income


individuals and families in San Diego.  The new policy took effect in February 2014.  

In cities that don't have policies, many owners and managers have adopted voluntary policies to protect their tenants, and to make their housing more attractive to tenants.

Second-hand smoke is not only a health issue, but also an economic issue. Multi-unit housing complexes are businesses, and many of those businesses have realized the overwhelming economic benefit to having smoke free policies. These benefits include fewer tenant complaints, lower turnover costs, and reduced property insurance rates. Smoke free properties are also seen as an amenity to prospective tenants.

Smoke free environments also help parents save money: parents who protect their children's health by keeping them free of smoke filled environments don't need to take their children to the doctor as often. 

Our partner SAY San Diego is conducting educational activities to ensure that residents know how harmful unwanted exposure to second-hand smoke is to their health, and the health of their families. Smoke free policies are easily achieved with education, model policy language, sample lease addendums and notification to tenants.

It’s important to know that smoke free policies don’t prohibit anyone from smoking. Those policies simply restrict where people can smoke, so that others aren’t unfairly impacted. The truth is, there is no such right as the “right to smoke.” Smoking is a behavior, and a poor choice for protecting your health, and the health of everyone around you.

For more information on local tobacco free living efforts such as smoke free multi-unit housing, contact Irene Linayao-Putman.

What You Can Do

  • Let your landlord know you want a smoke free policy in your multi-unit complex. If you’re a landlord, contact SAY San Diego for assistance in implementing a smoke free policy. 
  • View here for more information about supporting smoke free environments in San Diego County.