Why smoke free?

BUILD SUCCESS BY increasing awareness of the benefits of smoke-free housing and the negative effects of secondhand smoke.


Indoor airborne nicotine (a marker for secondhand smoke) decreased by 83% one year after the smoke-free policy went into effect.
  • Source: SHARE Study

The evidence shows that smoke-free policies work. Properties with smoke-free policies have less secondhand smoke, even if they have not reached 100% compliance. While it has not been easy for all who have adopted a smoke-free policy, public housing authorities consistently are positive about the results.

More than one-third of adult public housing residents in the US smoke—totaling approximately 400,000 smokers, putting other residents and staff at risk of negative health effects.

The Building Success research team conducted three studies that examined the opinions and experiences of voluntary adopters of smoke-free housing policies, and identified key approaches that supported implementation efforts.

The purpose of the Building Success website is to share practical ideas and insights from housing providers and residents who went smoke-free, in order to support implementation of smoke-free policies.

Why smoke-free?

Smoke-free policies protect the health of residents and staff by preventing exposure to secondhand smoke in their homes. Smoke-free policies do not require smokers to stop smoking, but they cannot smoke inside or within 25 feet of buildings.

“Be open-minded. It can be difficult, it can be challenging, it can be time-consuming. But at the end of the day you’ll find it’s a healthier community. Overall, it’s going to be a positive experience. It never stops, you’re always letting people know about the policy, you’re constantly chasing violations, but it’s worth it”

– Property Manager

Secondhand smoke is unhealthy

Smoke travels from smokers’ units into non-smokers’ units. This is called “secondhand smoke.”

  • There is no way to prevent secondhand smoke from traveling between units.
  • Smoke outside a building can travel into units through windows and vents.

Breathing any amount of secondhand smoke is unhealthy (US Surgeon General Report). Many serious health problems can be caused by secondhand smoke:

  • Stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease in adults
  • Asthma, respiratory infections, and ear problems in children
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in young children
  • Worsened health conditions for seniors and people with disabilities

Benefits of smoke-free housing

Reducing exposure to secondhand smoke helps protect the health of everyone, especially children and the elderly. In addition:

  • Making smoking less convenient sometimes provides a motivation for smokers to cut down or quit completely.
  • Children who grow up in a smoke-free environment are less likely to start smoking.

Other benefits of smoke-free housing include:

  • Less litter, improved property appearance, and more enjoyable public spaces
  • Reduced risk of fire


Download Why smoke-free? as a PDF

Change is in the Air: An Action Guide for Establishing Smoke-Free Public Housing and Multifamily Properties (HUD)

HUD memo on medical marijuana

Implementing HUD’s Smoke-free Rule (HUD)

Instituting Smoke-free Housing: Final Rule

Organizations serving public housing residents (CDC)

Questions and Answers on HUD’s Smoke Free Public Housing Proposed Rule (HUD)

Smoke-free Policy Recommended Checklist (HUD)

US Surgeon General Report