Will Smokers Get Used to Smoke-Free Apartment Living?


Americans have become accustomed to smoke-free restaurants, bars, hotels, and other public venues over the past 15 years. Fears that eateries and pubs wouldn’t survive when mandates began in the mid-1990s to snuff out smoking have been calmed. At last check, there are plenty of places to grab some nachos and have a cold one without a Marlboro Light in hand.

“The Change” is well under way in the United Kingdom, and the Brits are realizing that a five-year ban on smoking hasn’t created faulty towers. Results from a recent government-ordered study on the impact of the law show that health is improving and there has been “no clear adverse impact on the hospitality industry.”

Fewer are smoking: In some parts of England, the percentage of adult smokers has dropped as much as 9 percent since 2005. Barworkers are healthier: A study using saliva, lung function and air quality tests revealed that the Sam Malones and Woody Boyds in the cantina have better respiratory health since the laws were adopted.

“The law has had a significant impact,” wrote University of Stirling Professor Linda Bauld, who along with the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies carried out the survey.

But will smoking bans in American apartment properties show the same results? In five years, after many properties that have already adopted optional or mandatory smoke-free laws, will occupancy rates show a tick down, up or remain the same?

There are skeptics. Dousing the flame at home sweet home can’t be compared to that at the local watering hole or five-star hotel. Right?

Well, if U.S. trends since the mid-1990s are any indicator, the likelihood of acceptance by apartment residents is pretty good.

According to a Center of Disease Control study conducted from 2003-07 in 19 states – about 10 years after public smoking bans went into effect – most adults agreed that smoking should not be permitted in workplaces, restaurants, public buildings and sporting events/concerts. More than half of adult smokers and non-smokers said they had smoke-free policies at work and at home.

Also, after the City of El Paso, Texas, instituted the strongest smoke-free indoor air ordinances in Texas in 2002, a CDC report revealed that restaurants and bars showed no significant changes in sales based on a comparison of sales and mixed-beverage tax data collected 12 years before the ban and one year after.

Today, most U.S. employers have adopted no-smoking policies and employees have learned to gut it up and either kick the habit or take smoking breaks outside the workplace.

Same thing at restaurants and bars that don’t permit smoking. Just try to get into a popular restaurant on a Friday night that, by the way, is no smoking. Take a deep breath and be prepared to wait.

Same could be true for apartment residents who will have to brave a chilly winter afternoon walk to a designated smoking area. They will get a fix, then return home.

People adapt to changing conditions.

No doubt, some property owners are sweating the potential aftershock of converting an apartment community to non-smoking and having to explain to a 10-year resident that he or she must kick the habit indoors. The fear, as expressed by some apartment association owners recently, is that property owners won’t have a choice but to enact the bans and risk losing residents.

It will be up to the property owners to provide what may become a new amenity – “We have the most designated smoking areas of any apartment community at Happy Acres” – at least from the onset, as the weaning process begins.

Over time, smoke-free apartment living may become as everyday normal as the absence of an ash tray next to the ketchup, salt, paper and napkin dispenser in the booth at the diner.

What are the real risks for a property owner who bans smoking? What steps should be taken to condition long-time residents from lighting up in the comfort of their own living room?

We’d like to know your thoughts.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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