Smoke-free housing benefits everyone with clean air and safer homes.
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Why smoke-free homes?
Smoke-free housing benefits everyone with clean air and safer homes. Most people spend more time at home than at work or school. Children, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses are more vulnerable to the health and safety risks of indoor smoking.
Smoke-free housing is safer than housing where smoking is allowed.
Smoking in the home is a leading cause of U.S. home fires that kill people. Lit cigarettes or other smoking products may come into contact with flammable furniture, bedding, curtains, clothes, and other items, to start a fire.
The risk increases for buildings with elderly and disabled residents who may be unable to escape in the event of a fire. In fact, close to half of all deaths from smoking-related fires in homes are people over the age of 65.
People who use home oxygen, which is very flammable, are at serious risk. Oxygen can explode – even when it is off – if a fire or spark is near it.
Smoke-free housing is also healthier than housing that allows smoking.
Secondhand smoke* is dangerous to everyone's health.
- Secondhand smoke has 250 toxic gases and tiny particles, including 70 that cause cancer.
- The U.S. Surgeon General has said that there is no safe amount of exposure to it.
Repeated exposure to secondhand smoke causes greater health risks, including:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Heart attacks
Secondhand smoke is smoke that you inhale from someone else's smoking. Secondhand smoke indoors is dangerous and harmful to others. It moves throughout the building to other rooms and apartments and affects other tenants.
Smoke can travel through:
- air conditioning
- heating systems
- cracks and openings in lighting and plumbing fixtures
- electrical outlets
- under doors
Because toxic gases and particles from secondhand smoke are not removed by ventilation, fans, or by opening windows, the only way to prevent exposure inside is with smoke-free policies.
Smoking outside near windows or doors can also bring smoke into a building. This is why most smoke-free housing policies don't let tenants smoke near doors and windows.
If you or someone you know wants to quit smoking, see our quitting-smoking resources.
Frequently asked questionsFrequently asked questions
Q: Is smoke-free housing legal?
A: Making your property smoke-free is completely legal. It is within your rights as a property owner and does not violate any state or federal fair housing laws. Landlords can set property rules, such as no pets or quiet hours, and they can also make their properties smoke-free.
Q: Don't people have a right to smoke in their homes? Isn't it a violation of privacy?
A: There is no legally protected right to smoke in multi-unit residences.
Q: Can smokers request reasonable accommodations for smoke-free policies, citing smoking as a disability?
A: Addiction to nicotine is not a qualifying disability under state or federal law. There is no legal requirement to allow someone to smoke in his or her apartment. Smoking is also not recognized as a medical treatment for any health condition.
Q: How do I make my property smoke-free?
A: Make your property smoke-free by having tenants sign an addendum to the standard lease document. Legally, landlords of market-rate housing in Massachusetts must provide tenants at least 30 days' notice about a lease change before the end of the current lease. For more information, please see How to Go Smoke-free or download A Landlord's Guide to Smoke-Free Housing.
Q: Can smokers live in smoke-free properties?
A: A smoke-free rule DOES NOT mean no smokers. Smokers are welcome to live, visit, or work in smoke-free residential properties, provided they abide by the rules.
Q: What about e-cigarettes, marijuana, hookahs, and other types of smoking products? Do smoke-free policies apply here?
A: Anything you burn and inhale should be included in the smoke-free policy. This includes marijuana, hookahs and other types of smoking products. Some smoke-free policies include e-cigarettes and e-pipes. Please see more about e-cigarettes and marijuana below.
Research about the health effects of e-cigarettes is ongoing. Many landlords are prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in private units and common areas. This reduces potential confusion and makes enforcing the no smoking policy easier. E-cigarettes are also not recognized as a medical device to help smokers quit.
Landlords may also prohibit marijuana smoking. This includes medical marijuana, under their smoke-free rule, based on Massachusetts law (105 CMR 725.650). Tenants utilizing medical marijuana have options other than smoking it.
Q: Do you recommend creating a designated smoking area on the property outside the building?
A: There are multiple factors to consider, including costs, potential liability issues, size of the property grounds, and the make-up of the tenant population.
Q: What is the standard perimeter you should include around a building in the smoke-free rules?
A: Including a perimeter around the building in a smoke-free policy prevents smoke from drifting into the building. Some properties have a 15 foot perimeter, others 25 and some make their whole property smoke-free.
Q: I'm concerned that introducing a smoke-free policy will be met with a great deal of resistance. What should I do?
A: We recommend giving a survey or meeting with residents to gauge support. This allows you to identify concerns around the policy and problem solve. Landlords and property managers should provide advance notice. The notice should include a start date and make the policy clear and specific.
Q: There are some elderly and disabled tenants who have difficulty going outside to smoke. What should I do?
A: If you have vacant units on the first floor or closer to an exit you may wish to accommodate disabled or elderly tenants to assist residents in complying with the rule. Problem solving with the resident and any health care or social supports they have may also be helpful.
Q: I am worried about how to enforce the smoke-free policy. How do you enforce it, especially when the smoker can deny that s/he was smoking?
A: Enforce smoke-free housing policies just like any other rule written into a lease (e.g. no pets, quiet hours):
- Respond quickly to complaints.
- Re-post signage or reminders of the policy
- Document all complaints in writing
Management may also wish to meet with tenants to remind them of the lease and provide a written warning. The warning should include the consequences outlined in the policy. Consequences can include fines and eviction proceedings if the situation is ongoing. For more information, please see How to Go Smoke-free or download A Landlord's Guide to Smoke-Free Housing.