Under Utah Law:
- Secondhand smoke that drifts into another person’s residential unit is considered a nuisance that residents may seek injunctive relief and/or damages over.
- Condominium associations may restrict smoking in units, common areas, and yard space.
- Apartment rental contracts may prohibit smoking in units, on the premises, or both.
- Apartment renters may file a nuisance action over secondhand smoke even if they have signed away their rights to file a nuisance in a rental contract.
Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke (SHS) is the third leading cause of preventable disease in the U.S. and a leading cause of acute and chronic disease. Approximately 50,000 individuals die each year as result of SHS exposure. Secondhand smoke caused by nearby neighbors can have a bad impact on the residents who live in apartments and condominiums.
Secondhand smoke from one unit can seep through air ducts and cracks, or travel through a shared ventilation system and enter into another person's living space. "At present the only means of effectively eliminating the health risks associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity. 1 According to the 2006 Surgeon General's Report, "there is no risk-free level of exposure to SHS." "The scientific evidence is now indisputable: secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults." 2
Secondhand smoke comes from lit cigarettes. It is also the smoke that comes out of a smoker's mouth. The U.S. Surgeon General stated that breathing even a little secondhand smoke poses a risk to your health. Decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke will improve the health of Weber and Morgan county residents.
The Weber-Morgan Health Department Tobacco Program works with local worksites, healthcare organizations, outdoor recreation venues, housing authorities and schools to create policies to help reduce the amount of secondhand smoke that our community breathes.
1 ASHRAE Report (Environmental Tobacco Smoke, Positional Document, Approved by ASHRAE Board of Directors, June 25, 2008.)
2 US Department of Health and Human Services. (2006) The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services.
Talk to the person who is smoking
- If you know where the smoke is coming from and you feel comfortable, try politely talking to the person. Tell them that you are being exposed to drifting smoke, and ask if they can smoke outside or use fans when they smoke inside.
Talk to your landlord
- Inform your community manager or property management company about the problem and ask them to adopt a smoke-free policy if they don’t already have one in place. Share with them information regarding the cost and health benefits of a smoke-free policy.
- If they are unwilling to adopt a smoke-free policy, ask if there is another apartment unit available that is away from drifting secondhand smoke.
- Ask if they can install door sweeps or change air filters in your building’s ventilation system.
Talk to other residents
- If you are experiencing issues with drifting secondhand smoke, it’s likely other residents are, too. Talk to them and gain support for a smoke-free policy; you can even create a petition for your landlord or property management company.
Seek other, smoke-free housing
- Before renting, always ask if there is a smoke-free policy.
- Check out the search directory on the Tobacco Free Utah website that shows apartments and condos with smoke-free policies.
- Document all communication with your landlord or community manager.
- Keep a log with dates and times of when you notice secondhand smoke drifting into your residence.
Managers & Owners
Why Go Smoke-Free?
- Save money: Units are more expensive to turn over if someone has smoked inside.
- Demand is high: More than 90% of Utahns do not smoke.
- Risk of fire decreases: Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.
Smoke-free policies are illegal.
False—under Utah law, secondhand smoke is considered a nuisance. This means that apartment managers and owners have the authority to prohibit smoking on their property, including all rental units. Having a smoke-free policy is no different than having a policy against pets or loud noise.
Prohibiting smoking is discriminatory to those who smoke.
False—smokers are not a protected legal class, which means there is no law that states there is a “right to smoke.”
Enforcing the policy will be difficult.
False—smoking is not easy to hide. Residents of your complex can be helpful in identifying those that are breaking the rules and smoking in areas where it is prohibited. Following through with violations of the leases is also very important.
How to Implement a Smoke-Free Policy
Visit Steps to go Smoke Free to learn the tips to implement a Smoke-Free Policy.