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Montana Smokefree Housing

The Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program (MTUPP) is promoting comprehensive smokefree policies among Montana public housing authorities and other federal, state, and local rent-restricted, multi-unit housing facilities. Such policies support MTUPP’s mission to improve the health of community members and address the number one cause of preventable disease and death - tobacco use. This project will help achieve MTUPP’s goals of reducing secondhand tobacco smoke exposure in the home among vulnerable, at-risk Montanans, including children and seniors.

Tenants

Secondhand Tobacco Smoke is a Public Health Problem

Secondhand smoke – the smoke that comes from a lighted tobacco product or from a person who is smoking tobacco – contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Of these chemicals, 11 are known cancer-causing poisons and 250 are known toxins. 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.

Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke toxins, since they breathe faster than adults, and weigh less. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms and slowed lung growth.

A minimum of 38,000 and up to 65,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. as a result of diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Adults exposed to secondhand smoke are at a 25-30% increased risk of coronary heart disease. Thousands of people in the U.S. suffer from conditions caused by or made worse by secondhand smoke.

As many as 175 Montanans die annually from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Secondhand Smoke in Apartment Buildings

Secondhand smoke can infiltrate from units where smoking occurs into common areas and other units where residents have adopted voluntary smoke-free home rules. Smoke can infiltrate into these areas through air ducts, cracks in floors and walls, stairwells, hallways, elevator shafts, plumbing, electrical lines, and open windows, among other routes. In fact, as much as 60 percent of airflow in multi-unit housing facilities can come from other units. Ventilation systems are also ineffective at protecting other residents from smoke. The best way to protect tenants from secondhand smoke is to not allow smoking in the facility, or close to it.

Want a Smokefree Apartment Building? You’re Not Alone. 

Statewide surveys reveal that many vulnerable, low-income Montana citizens, including children and seniors, continue to be exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke in their homes. Thirty percent of Montana housing is renter occupied and 26% of Montana housing stock is multi-unit housing (American Community Survey, 2006-2008). The 2008 and 2009 Montana Adult Tobacco Survey found that fewer than one-in-five respondents who live in multi-unit housing (approximately 9,000 or 19%) are protected by a smokefree policy set by their landlord. More than one-third (36%) of those respondents have children 17 years or younger living with them. Of Montana multi-unit renters who do not have a smokefree policy in their building or complex, the majority (85%) are in favor of their landlord adopting a smokefree policy.

Finding a Smokefree Apartment

Go to http://mthousingsearch.com. Click “Find a Place to Rent” under the “Find Housing” section. Search for housing based on your location. Facilities with a no smoking icon next to them have landlords which prefer or require non-smoking tenants. This, however, does not guarantee that the entire building will be smoke-free. Be sure to ask the landlord if you would be protected by a smoke free policy, and how extensive that policy is. Would people be prohibited from smoking in all units, or only some? Will they be allowed to smoke immediately outside your door, allowing smoke to drift into your living space? The policies with the best protection from secondhand smoke prohibit smoking on all parts of the property, indoor and outdoor.

Landlords/Owners/Managers

As a landlord, you can play a role in eliminating a significant cause of illness in the home and a major cause of preventable death in the United States: secondhand smoke. You can also save money on apartment turnover and attract more tenants by adopting a smokefree policy in your facility.

Demand for Smokefree Housing

The 2008 and 2009 Montana Adult Tobacco Survey found that fewer than one-in-five respondents who live in multi-unit housing (approximately 9,000 or 19%) are protected by a smokefree policy set by their landlord. Of Montana multi-unit renters who do not have a smokefree policy in their building or complex, the majority (85%) are in favor of their landlord adopting a smokefree policy. That means that by passing a smokefree policy, you can market a product that 85% of Montanans want, but only 19% have.

Legality of Smokefree Policies

Smokefree policies are legal, and are not considered discriminatory. In fact, non-smokers with serious breathing disabilities or smoke allergies actually have legal protection under federal and state laws.

The right to smoke is not protected under law, according to the opinion of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As long as the policy is not used to target a protected class or minority, a building manager is legally free to restrict or prohibit smoking.

Cost Savings

Smoking inside an apartment building leaves sticky, brown residue on all surfaces, which must be cleaned, or, often, replaced. Therefore, turning over a unit which has been smoked in requires much more time, work and materials. See Assoication for Non-Smoker's Rights Cost Sheet.

What Assistance is Available?

The Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program is offering individualized assistance to Housing Authorities, rent-restricted, multi-unit housing owners and managers and local decision-making bodies to adopt smokefree policy. The Project Coordinator and/or community Tobacco Prevention Specialists will work with key personnel throughout the process of developing and implementing campus-wide smokefree policies or strengthening existing policies. Materials, telephone support, and site visits are available at no cost to the facility. The Project Consultant and/or community Tobacco Prevention Specialist is able to assist in the following ways:

  • Provide information to local Housing Authorities and rent-restricted, multi-unit housing owners and managers, local decision-making bodies and community stakeholders to help initiate the process of policy creation or revision.
  • Assist with policy formation or revision and the development of an implementation plan.
  • Supply sample communication materials and media.
  • Identify signage needs and provide free signs for the campus. Please print and fill out our signage needs survey and we will notify the Tobacco Prevention Specialist in your area to contact you.
  • Offer strategies to enhance compliance and support for the new policy.
  • Provide educational tools and materials that can be used for tenant education.
  • Provide information about and coordination with the MTUPP Cessation Program

Contact either Elizabeth Andrews or Alison Reidmohr for free assistance in adopting smokefree policies or strengthening compliance to existing policies.

For More Information or Assistance, Contact:

Alison Reidmohr
Health Educator
Telephone: 406-444-7896
Email: areidmohr@mt.gov

Page last updated 01/23/2014