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The Benefits of a Smoke-Free Policy

Multi-housing owners, managers, and residents can all benefit from a smoke-free policy. Smoke-free buildings are cost-effective, safe, and healthy.

View our video about the benefits of smoke-free housing!

  • Market Advantages: Buildings may be able to attract more residents by going smoke free.
    Research shows that renters want smoke-free housing! Many renters are even willing to pay more rent and make other sacrifices, such as walking farther to a bus stop or driving farther to work, to live in a smoke-free building (1)
  • Reduced Costs: Cleaning costs are lower when you don’t have to scrub, paint, and replace items in an apartment that smell like smoke or are covered in residue
  • Fewer fire risks: Smoking-related fires are deadly and costly. By going smoke-free, you eliminate the source of smoking-related fires. Some insurance companies may even provide reduced premium rates to buildings that are smoke free or to tenants who live in a smoke-free building. For more information on smoking-related fires in apartments, view Live Smoke Free's fact sheet "Up in Flames: The Dangers of Smoking in Apartment Units." (opens as a pdf in new window)
  • Smoke-free policies are legal: A building owner/manager can legally make a rental building (or entire property) completely smoke free
  • Protection from secondhand smoke: All residents, guests, and staff members are protected from the serious health dangers associated with secondhand smoke exposure

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Market Advantages
Research done in 2001 by the Center for Energy and Environment shows that almost half (50%) of Minnesota renters are "extremely" or "very" interested in living in a smoke-free building. Over half (50%) of Minnesota renters would also be "very likely" to choose a smoke-free building over a smoking-permitted building if other things were equal (i.e., similar amenities, similar location, etc.).(1)

In a similar study done in 2009, Live Smoke Free and Wilder Research conducted a metro-wide survey of renters and found that 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. Finally, 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.(2)

Building owners and managers have an opportunity to appeal to the large group of renters who want smoke-free apartment living.

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Reduced Costs
Tobacco smoke leaves sticky residue on walls, curtains, cabinets, blinds, appliances, fixtures, and ceilings. The odor often stays in carpets, curtains, and walls. Dropped ashes may result in burn damage to tiles, carpets, countertops, and bathtubs.

An apartment that has been smoked in will probably need to be cleaned, primed, painted, and sealed; carpets and countertops may need to be replaced; even floor tiles and sub floors may need to be cleaned. A 2007 estimate from an Oregon restoration service stated that the average cost of conversion for a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment that has been smoked in is over $15,000!(3) Many building owners and landlords have said that cleaning a smoking unit often costs 2-3 times as much as cleaning a non-smoking unit.

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Fewer Fire Risks
Smoking-related fires are often caused by a dropped cigarette; often by someone who has fallen asleep or may be under the influence of alcohol. A dropped cigarette may lie in furniture or bed linens and could smolder for up to 30-45 minutes.(4) The smoldering cigarette can cause smoke which contains carbon monoxide and other highly toxic gases that can put residents at risk of injury or death.(4)

Apartments account for a larger share of smoking-related fires than any other residential structure.(5) Smoking is the leading cause of fire death in Minnesota and around the country. The fatality rate due to a smoking-related fire is nearly four times higher than the overall residential fire rate; injuries are more than twice as likely.(5)In 2009, smoking caused one-quarter (25%) of multi-housing fire deaths in Minnesota.(6) One quarter (25%) of victims who die in a smoking-related fire are not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.(7) Children, spouses, neighbors, friends, roommates, firefighters and others may be injured or die in smoking-related fires.

For more information on smoking-related fires in apartments, view Live Smoke Free's fact sheet "Up in Flames: The Dangers of Smoking in Apartment Units." (opens as a pdf in new window)

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Smoke-Free Policies are Legal
There is currently no Minnesota law or Federal law that prohibits a landlord from making an entire apartment building smoke free. Smoke-free policies are not discriminatory and may actually protect landlords from the risk of some legal violations such as warranty of habitability or covenant of quiet enjoyment. Residents with disabilities caused by or made worse by secondhand smoke may also have legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Federal Fair Housing Act, or the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Read about a tenant's legal rights and legal research to learn more about the legalities of smoke-free policies.

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Protection from Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke (smoke caused by someone else's lighted tobacco product) is dangerous and deadly. The 2006 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.(8)

Thousands of nonsmokers in the United States die from secondhand smoke exposure each year.(9) It has been linked to diseases such as cancer, asthma, heart disease, respiratory illness, ear infections, and low birth weight. Smoke-free housing allows residents to enjoy their home without being exposed to the deadly chemicals found in secondhand smoke.

Learn more about why it's important to protect renters from the harms of secondhand smoke in the Secondhand Smoke Facts page.

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