A new UCLA study finds that landlords can save money by implementing complete smoke-free rules throughout their properties. Owners of California multi-unit rental buildings could save as much as $18 million a year statewide on the cost of cleaning apartments vacated by tenants who smoke, while also protecting other tenants from the secondhand smoke that seeps between units, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Secondhand smoke results in about 4,000 deaths each year from ischemic heart disease and lung cancer, and is the cause of approximately 31,000 childhood asthma episodes and 4,700 pre-term infant deliveries annually, according to the researchers. Secondhand smoke wafts between units through shared airspaces and ventilation, hallways, cracks in walls and floors, electrical outlets, and plumbing fixtures, or from outside.

“California has minimized exposure to secondhand smoke by restricting smoking in multiple public venues, including workplaces, public entryways, public parks and beaches, and vehicles carrying youths,” said Michael Ong, MD, PhD, assistant professor-in-residence at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “However, secondhand exposure in multi-unit housing is a significant contributor to overall secondhand smoke exposure, since Californians spend an average 68% of their time at home and over 10 million Californians live in multi-unit housing.”

For the study, the researchers conducted computer-assisted telephone surveys of 343 California Apartment Association (CAA) members to determine landlords’ smoking-related costs, the costs they have avoided as a result of having smoke-free policies, and the economic benefits of having completely smoke-free policies.

The researchers found that nearly half of the multi-unit housing properties owned by CAA members had no smoke-free policies, but the smaller properties had a threefold higher rate of smoke-free policies than did the larger ones.

The researchers also found that more than 25% of multi-unit housing properties had smoking-related costs in the past year. For a single multi-unit housing property, the mean smoking-related cost was nearly $5,000 in the past year and the median cost was $2,000. The likelihood of incurring smoking-related costs was reduced by half with the presence of a complete smoke-free policy. Overall, the researchers estimate that implementing complete smoke-free policies in California multi-unit housing could result in an estimated property savings of $18 million in the short-term.

This is the first study to take a systematic measure of smoking-related costs in multi-unit housing, as well as the first study of smoking and multi-unit housing to take into account small-scale multi-unit buildings—those with 15 or fewer units, according to the researchers.

Source: UCLA Health Sciences