SMOKE-FREE POLICIES REDUCE COSTS AND CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS
El Paso County property owners said implementing a smoke-free policy offers important benefits, including lower maintenance costs, fewer resident complaints, decreased fire risk and a healthier environment for all residents.
“Smoking costs us a lot of money,” one property owner said, adding that difficulties in removing the smell once a smoker moves out can cause new residents to demand being relocated or released from their lease. “Overall and on a business standpoint … it's better to have all your communities smoke-free.”
Secondhand smoke drift between units through the ventilation system, creating resident friction, local property owners said, adding that going smoke free was good for business, leading to more renewals and increasingly greater interest among young adults.
The property owner sentiments were gathered by the American Heart Association (AHA) in February and March 2021, through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program.
AHA is supporting local partners with technical assistance to increase the number of El Paso multi-unit housing buildings with smoke-free or tobacco-free policies. In 2018, only 12.1% of El Paso County’s adult population were current smokers, lower than Texas’ statewide levels of 14.4%.
Nationwide, an estimated 41,000 deaths per year are attributed to secondhand smoke exposure, as well as a wide range of health problems among adults and children. Federal policies prohibiting tobacco use in residential units and outdoor areas within 25 feet of public housing were implemented in 2018 but did not apply to privately-owned multi-unit housing. The City of El Paso has mandated smoke-free worksites, including restaurants and bars, since 2001, but the policy does not include multi-unit housing.
Even so, property owners across the United States have voluntarily adopted smoke-free policies for their sites. Property owners interviewed emphasized the importance of having a clear policy, good communication with residents and ample time for a successful transition.
“You always want to well-inform your people before you do something, that way you don't get much of a backlash on issues,” one property owner said.
Another added that smoke-free environments have simply become part of the culture.
“I see less and less people smoking,” the property owner said. “…Nobody has ever given me any pushback on why they can't smoke or shouldn't smoke … It just doesn't come up.”
Request a free toolkit from AHA to access additional information on cost savings, legal information, sample resident communications, lease addendums for a smoke-free policy, and steps for success. Properties that go smoke-free are recognized by AHA with a smoke-free badge to use on their webpage. To access the toolkit, go to: https://www.heart.org/en/affiliates/el-paso-housing-toolkit
AHA hosted a webinar presentation, facilitated by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, that discussed the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure and the benefits of smoke-free environments for multi-unit housing properties. To request a free flash drive of the recorded webinar, contact ElPasoTX@heart.org.