Smoke-Free Saves More Than Lives

Oct. 11, 2011

When apartment tenants light up a cigarette, the resulting smoke does more than threaten the health of those around them – the landlord is left smoldering over increased cleaning costs.

By implementing smoke-free rules, owners of California multi-unit rental buildings could save up to $18 million per year statewide on the costs of cleaning apartments vacated by tenants who smoke, according to a new UCLA study.

Smoke wafts between apartment units through shared airspaces and ventilation, hallways, cracks in walls and floors, electrical outlets, plumbing fixtures, and from the outside.

This is the first study to take a systematic measure of smoking-related costs in multi-unit housing, according to Michael Ong, lead study author and assistant professor-in-residence in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Researchers conducted surveys of 343 California Apartment Association (CCA) members to determine landlords’ smoking-related costs, the costs they avoided as a result of having smoke-free policies, and the economic benefits of having completely smoke-free policies.

Smoking-related costs for recently vacated units included cleaning, repairs and maintenance, painting and decorating, trash collection and fire damage, property and fire insurance, and legal, administrative, and other operating costs.

Researchers found that nearly half of the multi-unit housing properties owned or managed by CCA members had no smoke-free policies, but the smaller properties had a threefold higher rate of smoke-free policies than larger ones.

Researchers also found that:

  • Over 25% of properties had smoking-related costs in the past year.
  • The mean smoking-related cost was nearly $5,000 in the past year and the median cost was $2,000.
  • Smoking-related costs can be reduced by 50% with the presence of a complete smoke-free policy.

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