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Smoke-Free Multi-Housing Research

The issues of secondhand smoke and smoke-free multi-housing have sparked research around the world. Below are summaries and key points of some of the research as well as links to the full research documents when possible.

This research comes from:
Center for Energy and Environment and Public Health Law Center
Wilder Research
Center for Energy and Environment (CEE)
University of Minnesota
American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, & Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
U.S. Surgeon General

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Research in Condos, Townhomes, and other Owner-Occupied Multi-Housing Buildings

Despite the growing smoke-free rental property movement, there has been little information about and movement toward smoke-free owner-occupied common interest communities such as condominiums and townhomes. In response to the need for more information on this topic, in 2009, the Center for Energy and Environment, in partnership with the Public Health Law Center and the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, surveyed 17 Minnesota property managers and a random sample of 495 residents of owner-occupied common interest communities in order to determine how often residents experience and report exposure to secondhand smoke in their common interest community. In addition, the Public Health Law Center conducted legal research about implementing and enforcing smoke-free policies in such communities. The following fact sheets provide a summary of findings from all three research areas.

This project was supported with a grant from ClearWay MinnesotaSM.

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Wilder Research
2009 Twin Cities Metro Area Survey of Apartment Renters

New data regarding apartment renters' exposure to secondhand smoke and their desire to live in a smoke-free environment is now available. This survey follows a similar survey that was conducted statewide in 2001 by the Center for Energy and Environment. Live Smoke Free and Wilder Research conducted the 2009 metro-wide survey of renters and found that:

  • Approximately 30% of renters are exposed to secondhand smoke that comes into their unit from somewhere else in the building.
  • Of renters who are exposed to secondhand smoke, 34% are so bothered by the smoke that they are thinking of moving in order to avoid exposure.
  • A majority of renters (75%) would be likely to choose a smoke-free building over a building that allows smoking if the buildings were the same in every other way.
  • Renters are also interested in buildings that provide outdoor smoke-free areas such as balconies, entryways, and entirely smoke-free properties.
  • In order to live in a smoke-free building, many renters are willing to live in a building that does not have a pool or playground, drive farther to work, and pay more rent.

To learn more about the research:
View the survey fact sheet that compares data from the 2001 survey and the 2009 survey (PDF)
View the full report on the 2009 survey of metro renters (PDF)
View data from the 2001 statewide survey

The 2009 research was funded by a Tobacco-Free Communities grant from the Minnesota Department of Health.

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Center for Energy and Environment (CEE):
Clean Indoor Air in Apartments -- Researching Effective Strategies

CEE is an independent nonprofit organization in Minnesota that works to promote the responsible and efficient use of natural and economic resources. In 2001, CEE conducted research about secondhand smoke in apartment buildings. The research consisted of four separate projects:

  • In-depth telephone interviews with owners of smoke-free apartment buildings in Minnesota. Twenty (20) building owners, who each owned multiple smoke-free buildings, were identified and surveyed.
    • Many owners saw a decrease or no effect in turnover, vacancy rates, and staff time to manage the building.
    • About 95%, or 19 of 20, of the owners were “very likely” to continue offering smoke-free buildings.
  • Mail surveys of a statistical sample of Minnesota renters. The surveys measured the percentage of renters who experienced secondhand smoke coming into their unit and the level of interest renters had in living in a smoke-free building.
    • Almost 50% of Minnesota renters are “extremely” or “very” interested in living in a smoke-free building.
    • Over 50% of renters would be “very likely” to choose a smoke-free building over a building that allows smoking, all other things being equal.
    • Over 33% of renters would pay more to live in a smoke-free building.
    • Many renters would also be willing to make sacrifices such as driving farther to work or walking farther to a bus line in order to live in a smoke-free building.
  • Researching the legal issues related to providing or not providing smoke-free rental housing. CEE worked with Minnesota attorneys to analyze issues of discrimination, privacy, and liability when creating a smoke-free apartment building.
    • After consulting a wide range of legal materials, an attorney well versed in landlord-tenant law concluded that landlords may include use restrictions, such as a no-use-of-tobacco restriction, in a lease.
    • Read more about legal issues in adopting a smoke-free policy on the Landlords' Legal Rights page in the landlords section.
  • Testing strategies on actual apartment buildings to reduce movement of secondhand smoke. Building testing and research concluded that air flow between units in apartment buildings is significant.
    • Secondhand smoke is difficult to reduce and virtually impossible to eliminate.
    • The average cost to seal a unit to reduce secondhand smoke leakage was about $700 per unit.
    • However, sealing the air leaks was still not enough to eliminate the secondhand smoke problem completely.

For more information about CEE's research, read the research summary (opens as a pdf in new window) or detailed reports from the four projects on CEE's web site:
http://www.mncee.org/What-We-Do/Research---Technology/
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University of Minnesota:
2005 Secondhand Smoke Survey of Ramsey County Residents

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health, supported by ClearWay MinnesotaSM, conducted a random sample mail survey of 314 residents of Ramsey County, Minnesota in 2005. Some of the questions in the survey asked residents their thoughts about secondhand smoke and smoke-free multi-housing.

  • A majority of residents agree that secondhand smoke is harmful to adults and children.
    • Ninety-one percent (91%) agree that "secondhand smoke is harmful to adults."
    • Ninety-four percent (94%) agree that "secondhand smoke is harmful to children."
  • Almost half of Ramsey County residents who live in multi-housing report secondhand smoke coming into their unit from somewhere else.
  • Ramsey County residents prefer to live in smoke-free buildings or homes.
    • Ninety percent (90%) said they "prefer to live in a smoke-free building or home."
    • Seventy-eight percent (78%) do not allow their guests to smoke in their home.
    • Eighty-five percent (85%) agree that "smoke-free policies protect the rights of non-smokers.

For more information, read the fact sheet about the Ramsey County survey (opens as a pdf in new window).

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American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE):
2008 Position Statement

In 2008, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) issued their latest position document on secondhand smoke.

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U.S. Surgeon General:
The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke

The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke,” concluded that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke, and the only way to protect people from the dangers of secondhand smoke is to eliminate the smoke exposure.

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Surgeon General have created a guide titled "Secondhand Smoke: What it Means to You" (opens as a pdf in new window).
    • The guide summarizes the 2006 Surgeon General's Report and explains how people can take action to improve their health.
  • The CDC and Surgeon General have also created an educational poster and handout, titled "Secondhand Smoke is Toxic," (opens as a pdf in new window) to illustrate some of the chemical components in secondhand smoke.


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