Legal Community

Why Secondhand Smoke Constitutes a Legal Issue for Residents

Brief summary of the issue from the Public Health Law Center:

Scientific evidence on the toxicity of secondhand tobacco smoke is both overwhelming and indisputable. The complex mixture of gases and particles that make up secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) contains at least 250 chemicals known to be lethal, including more than 50 that can cause cancer. Medical authorities from around the world have concluded that secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer, has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, and causes sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma attacks in children. In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure and that regulating smoking through smoke-free laws and policies is the most effective way to protect individuals from exposure.

Check out their Housing Resources for fact sheets, tips & tools, and webinars.

Jeffco Smoke-Free Housing:

Supported by Amendment 35 funding, we can provide assistance with smoke-free policies in multiunit housing complexes.

Part of our goal is to provide resources for the legal community to advance smoke-free multiunit housing policies in Jefferson County. The website content provided here is a summary of materials available online and/or presented at local CLE trainings and workshops, and should not be taken as legal advice. Our hope is to provide tools to help reduce the perception of legal barriers to no-smoking policies and increase support and capacity to implement these policies.

Colorado Housing Law Toolkit2016 Attny Toolkit Cover web

Housing Law in Colorado | Fair Housing Primer | Secondhand Smoke | Marijuana
Warranty of Habitability & Other Possible Claims for Relief | Best Practices: Planning, Implementing & Enforcing No-Smoking Policies

Jefferson County Public Health and The Action Center are working together to protect residents and housing providers from the dangers and loss caused by secondhand smoke exposure in multifamily housing. Through collaborative partnerships with experts in housing, human services, and tobacco prevention, this toolkit is being offered to assist attorneys/legal counsel and property owners in the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of no-smoking policies for multifamily housing in Jefferson County, Colorado.

A pdf of the toolkit is provided below and hard copies may be requested by contacting
Housing Resources

Colorado Housing Law Toolkit

If you are an attorney, mediator, or housing provider and would like more information, please call 303-275-7555 or email

Federal Policies and Laws

No federal statute or regulation mandates that multi-unit residences permit smoking or that the residences must be smoke-free. Several recent policy announcements from the federal government have indicated that smoke-free policies are to be promoted, however. In June of 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Promote Healthy Homes, which prominently referenced secondhand smoke as a determinant of indoor air quality. On the same day, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a document entitled Leading Our Nation to Healthier Homes: The Healthy Homes Strategic Plan, which also featured a discussion of smoke-free housing as a critical public health need.

In July of 2009, HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing and the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, issued a notice “strongly encouraging” all public housing authorities to adopt smoke-free policies. The notice (PIH-2009-21) clearly states the health risks, fire danger, and maintenance issues posed by continuing to allow smoking in public housing buildings.

Federal statutes that might be used to aid tenants bothered by secondhand smoke are the disability statutes: the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Federal Rehabilitation Act, and the Federal Fair Housing Act. If a resident has a health condition that could be considered a disability, and this condition is exacerbated by exposure to secondhand smoke, then the resident may be able to request a “reasonable accommodation” to reduce or eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Some conditions that may qualify are:

  • asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, multiple chemical sensitivity disorder, environmental illness and other respiratory or heart conditions.

Whether a condition is considered a disability and the possible accommodations for that disability are decided on a case-by-case basis.

–From Public Health Law Center

The information included on this website is provided free of charge for the visitor’s convenience with the understanding that Jefferson County Public Health is not engaged in, nor qualified to render legal advice.  This website is intended to provide basic information about smoking and the rights of housing providers and tenants with regard to secondhand smoke exposure. Jefferson County Public Health does not warrant that the information included or referenced herein is complete, accurate and/or updated. Jefferson County Public Health disclaims any liability to any person or entity for any loss or damage caused by errors, inaccuracies or omissions, or usage of this information.  All risk of loss or damage is solely that of the user of this website. The information provided does not constitute legal advice and should not be interpreted as such.  It is not a substitute for advice by licensed, legal professionals.  Consult an attorney with any questions or concerns you may have.