Smoke-Free Housing Recommendations During COVID-19

In Minnesota and many other states across the country, governors have asked residents to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With so many residents staying home throughout the day, it is important for property owners, managers, and renters to do their part to promote healthy indoor environments.

COVID-19 is a new illness that affects the respiratory system (chest and lungs). Smoking can compromise the immune system, which makes people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (CDC). In general, smoking, vaping, and exposure to secondhand smoke may cause lung inflammation.

In light of the increased importance of clean indoor air, Live Smoke Free recommends:

Recommendations For Property Owners, Managers, & Homeowners Associations

Promote Smoking Cessation

Many residents may be interested in quitting or cutting back on smoking or vaping to minimize their risk of COVID-19 infection. Quitting or cutting back can also help residents comply with a smoke-free policy. Connect your residents with free smoking cessation resources such as Minnesota’s Quit Partner (1-800-QUITNOW). Post this Quit Partner Flyer in common areas or distribute to residents.

Promote Compliance

Maintaining a smoke-free environment is a high priority during the COVID-19 outbreak. Remind residents about the building’s smoke-free policy and include details about where smoking is and is not allowed. This can be accomplished with a policy reminder letter (sample) or smoke-free signage, for example. Minnesota properties that have a smoke-free policy can receive free signs.

Show Compassion

Many residents will experience significant COVID-19 related stress such as the loss of a job, facilitation of distance learning for children, and/or care for a sick family member. For many people who smoke, stress can trigger nicotine cravings. If a resident struggles to comply with a smoke-free policy, use a personalized approach to help that person comply. This could include a meeting (6 feet apart) to discuss barriers to compliance, sharing tips and tools for managing cravings, or connecting the resident with other resources that could reduce stress related to COVID-19. Always document and follow up on smoking complaints in a timely and consistent manner.

Do Not Evict or Terminate Leases

On March 23, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced a suspension of eviction proceedings and lease terminations. Continue to document and follow up on smoking complaints but do not attempt to evict a resident or terminate a lease for smoking violations during the COVID-19 emergency. As stated in Governor Walz’s Emergency Executive Order, “losing a home is catastrophic at any time, and during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency in particular, losing housing endangers the public peace, health, and safety of all Minnesotans.”

Use Caution When Implementing New Smoke-Free Policies

Live Smoke Free emphasizes caution when considering the adoption of a new smoke-free policy during the COVID-19 emergency. Introducing and implementing a major policy change at this time could have unintended consequences for residents who already face unprecedented challenges. Before implementing a policy change consider the building culture and timing of the implementation. If considering a policy, or you were previously in the process of adopting a policy before the COVID-19 pandemic, resident education and outreach is first and foremost encouraged. Phased-in implementation and graduated enforcement are also stressed. Please consult with Live Smoke Free before proceeding.

Recommendations for Residents of Multi-Unit Housing

Get Free Help to Quit, Cut Back, or Manage Your Cravings

If you smoke, quitting or cutting back may be the most important thing you can do to minimize your risk for severe corona virus infection. Quit Partner offers free quit-tobacco services to Minnesota residents who use any form of commercial tobacco including cigarettes, e-cigarettes/vapes, and chew. Free support includes personalized coaching, email and text support, educational materials, and quit medication (nicotine patches, gum or lozenges) delivered by mail. Visit www.quitpartnermn.com or call 1-800-QUITNOW to get started.

Follow Your Building’s Smoke-Free Policy

Make sure that you, members of your household, and guests follow your building’s smoke-free policy. If you are unsure about where smoking is or is not allowed, check your lease or governing documents, or ask your property manager. Contact your property manager if you have concerns about social distancing while using designated smoking areas.

Take it Outside Anyway

Even if your building does not have a smoke-free policy, if you smoke you should still take it outside. Smoking outdoors and away from the building protects everyone in the building from potentially deadly fires and the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke.

Report Secondhand Smoke Infiltration in your Apartment

If you are being exposed to secondhand smoke coming into your apartment, notify your property manager. If your building has a smoke-free policy, your property manager will want to follow up. If your building does not have a smoke-free policy, your property manager may be able to assist you in finding ways to mitigate the smoke or consider adopting a smoke-free policy when the time is right.

Looking for Smoke-Free Housing?

Check out Minnesota’s Smoke-Free Housing Directory for hundreds of listings of smoke-free buildings across the state.

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