How to Go Smoke-Free: A Toolkit for Multi-Unit Housing

Look into the health and safety benefits of going smoke-free.  Many housing authorities and market rate properties have already gone smoke-free, which means smoking is not allowed inside any building, apartment or common area.  Anyone who wants to smoke must go to a designated smoking area outside or leave the property, depending on how the rule is structured.

STEP 1 - Getting Started
  • Why go smoke-free? Studies show the air quality of your building will improve.  The secondhand smoke from just a few smokers can permeate the air of an entire residential building. Download the Why Go Smoke Free handout.
STEP 2 - Resident Engagement

Resident input and engagement is essential.  Greater awareness of the smoke-free policy means more support and compliance.

  • Initial resident survey. Most properties start by surveying residents. Resident surveys consistently show a high level of support for a smoke-free rule.  Report back to the board and share the survey results with residents at the initial meetings. Download Resident Survey.
  • Provide fire safety education. Consider inviting the fire department to present to residents about fire safety. Unattended cigarettes are one of the leading causes of fire-related deaths.
STEP 3 - Make a Plan

Identify steps for implementing your plan.

  • Be clear about new rules. Smoke-free rules prohibit smoking in all units without exception. Current residents are not allowed to keep smoking past the implementation date.  Residents must smoke in outdoor designated smoking areas or go off the property completely.
  • Set your implementation date. Most properties set an implementation date one year in the future, and the rule becomes effective for all residents on that date. A suggested implementation date is Spring or during warm weather.
  • Involve all staff in the planning. Provide staff with training about their role in implementing and enforcing the rule. Staff should know what the smoke-free rule requires, when it goes into effect, and where residents can go to find more information about the rule and cessation services. Staff should respond quickly and consistently to complaints, and should know how to handle violations of the rule.


STEP 4 - Get the Word Out to the Community
  • Inform all contractors and other service providers. Tell visiting nurses, home health care aides, etc. who visit housing authority property that smoking will be prohibited on housing authority grounds. Consider inviting them to the staff training.
  • Inform health care providers. Tell your local municipal board of health and community health center or anyone else who provides care for housing authority residents about the new rule.  These folks can help educate residents about cessation services.
  • Work with local media. Send out press releases and write Letters to the Editor to local news outlets letting them know the property has gone smoke-free. Download Sample Press Release.
  • Clean up. Clean up cigarettes butts and remove outdoor ashtrays. Post no-smoking signs around the housing authority property.
STEP 5 - Put Your Plan into Action
  • Provide notice. Provide notice of the lease change to both current residents and those on the waiting list. Have current residents sign the new lease addendum. Make sure that staff members know that the rule applies to them too.
  • Promote your no smoking policy. You can promote the rule with meetings and presentations, in newsletters, through resident councils and more.  Your goal is to reach every resident to explain why the smoke-free rule is important.  Download Sample Letter Notifying Tenants of Lease and Rule Change and Postcard Reminder of Implementation Date.
  • Promote cessation resources. For residents who want to try to quit there are numerous cessation resources available at little or no cost to them. Download this cessation handout and visit Quit Now. You can also order free brochures on quitting smoking here:
  • Celebrate! Mark the implementation of your smoke-free rule with a fun event for residents.
  • Enforce. Make sure to enforce your smoke-free rule just like any other rule at the housing authority.  Typically, an internal process including written warnings and in-person meetings takes place before resorting to an external legal process.