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Smoke-Free Housing Trend Growing in Colorado

Monday, February 9, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Snip Young

Smoke-Free Housing Trend Growing in Colorado         

Snip Young, NACDD Senior Consultant & Pete Bialick, Director GASP of Colorado


Secondhand smoke (SHS) causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.[1],[2]     

A growing number of market-rate and affordable housing providers are adopting restrictions on smoking in Colorado multiunit properties, including buildings managed by public housing authorities.  About 15% of the 3,400 Colorado no-smoking properties have implemented policies that cover the entire property.   

A 2011 survey of Colorado residents found that 54% of Colorado adults who live in multiunit housing smell tobacco smoke drifting into their home from a nearby apartment, common spaces or from outside, while only 32% of adults living in  detached/single family homes smell SHS. For units with children in multiunit buildings, 60.5% report exposure to SHS.[3] 


What's driving the trend? 

First, there is market demand for smoke-free housing.  Most multiunit housing residents, including low-income populations,  do not allow smoking in their homes and prefer to live in a non-smoking building. Resident support for smoke-free policies is high according to a recent American Lung Association in Colorado study of three public housing authorities. The study found that 93.5% of the nonsmokers and 84.6% of the smokers supported an existing smoke-free policy.  Furthermore, 87.8% of the residents said that if they were to move it was important to move to a non-smoking building.[4]

Second, property managers are finding that smoke-free policies reduce the costs of cleaning, painting, repairs, and replacement; reduces energy consumption; and may reduce insurance costs.  One Colorado public housing authority recently reported spending $5,548 to refurbish a tobacco smoke-damaged unit.  The cost to refurbish a similar non-smoking unit was less than half according to the same American Lung Association study.4  The Fort Collins Housing Authority estimated that their no-smoking policy will save the city $100,000.

Third, allowing smoking in multiunit housing can increase the risk of fire. In Colorado residential fires caused by cigarettes in 2010 represented 36% of all residential fire fatalities, 14% of fire-related injuries, and 7% of all residential property losses.  That same year two buildings owned by the Fort Collins Housing authority were burned due to a cigarette.

Fourth, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a notice in 2013 encouraging public housing organizations to adopt no-smoking policies.[5]

Finally, implementing a no-smoking policy is not a difficult process with good planning.  Free resources are often available locally to help managers and owners plan for and implement a no-smoking policy.  At you will find tips on how to implement a policy; sample policies; resident surveys; compliance and enforcement tips; HUD toolkits and memos; free signs; health information about secondhand tobacco and marijuana smoke; educational materials and other Web resources.



1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health.  Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2014 Mar 5].

[2]. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2014 Mar 5].

[3]. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Health Statistics Section. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. [ Accessed 2015 Jan 8].

[4]. Young WF, Karp S, Bialick P, et. al. Health and economic impacts of secondhand smoke in Colorado public housing. (unpublished).

[5] U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Public and Indian Housing, Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.

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