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ASH publish findings aimed at reducing levels of smoking in homes

Thursday 22 November 2018

A report published this week takes a look at the role that landlords can play in helping to tackle smoking in the home and minimise the health risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure.

Action on Smoking and Health's (ASH) report Smoking in the home: new solutions for a smokefree generation looks at policy options for helping to reduce levels of smoking in the home, including in the private rented sectorThe report was developed in collaboration with health, housing and academic experts, as well as various representative groups including ARLA Propertymark. 

The research which formed the basis for the report findings comprised interviews with professionals across the housing and public sector, focus groups, a quantitative survey of the general population, case studies, surveys of landlords in the private rented sector and social housing sectors, and reviewing scientific literature and research papers.   

The health issue
According to a recent ASH survey, approximately 13% of people experience secondhand smoke exposure in the own home from people who live there, and according to Government statistics 14% of 11-15 year olds experience secondhand smoke exposure on 'most days'. And whilst these figures have declined since the introduction of smoke-free legislation, illness among children alone due to secondhand smoke still costs the NHS around £12 million a year. ASH argue that no child should be exposed to smoke in the home. 

In the report, ASH cites evidence which shows that every time someone breathes in secondhand smoke, they breathe in over 4,000 chemicals, many of which are highly toxic and over 60 are known to cause cancer. Some of these chemicals are known to take approximately three hours to reduce to safe levels. They therefore claim that secondhand smoke is a real and substantial threat to the health of adults and children.

Whilst much of the report is aimed more towards social housing providers due to research which shows that smoking is more prevalent in poorer communities (35% smoke in the social housing sector, as opposed to 25% in the private rented sector), ASH very much promote a joined up approach involving social landlords, private landlords and the various authorities and service providers that help promote health and safety within communities. 

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said: “This report does not call for a blanket ban on smoking in the home. It is focused on increasing the support to smokers where they live and raising awareness around the role many more professionals could play in tackling entrenched and high rates of smoking in some of our poorest communities.”

Cllr Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, said: “Exposure to smoke is shaped by where we live, our communities and our peer groups. This report by ASH presents the home as a focal point to reduce the burden of tobacco. If we’re to drive down premature mortality this must be a focus for the future.”

The solutions
ASH claim that more should be done to reduce smoking in both private tenancies and social tenancies, and that landlords should take a more proactive approach to dealing with the matter. Whilst in the private rented sector most landlords do include no smoking clauses, ASH believe that very few landlords have policies in place to help minimise smoke drift within communal spaces or between properties, and that they should do more to manage smoking risks. 

Some of the other key recommendations that the report makes include:

  • Providing support and incentives to help people quit smoking
  • Media campaigns and local health promotion to support smoke-free homes messaging
  • Landlords should identify whether tenants smoke in the home when they sign their first tenancy agreement, and refer those that do to the Fire and Rescue Service
  • Landlords and the fire service should share data relating to risk, and the Fire Service should conduct home visits where necessary, providing information to tenants around fire safety, help with quitting and advice on alternatives to smoking
  • Specific action for vulnerable groups of tenants
  • Landlords, freeholders and managing agents should have policies to support residents affected by smoke drift
  • Public Health England should support the development of national support and guidance on what action can be taken to support those experiencing smoke drift
  • Reference to smoking and cigarette smoke as hazards should be included in the Housing, Health and Safety Rating system which is used to assess risk in housing and is due to be updated and reviewed in autumn 2018
  • Existing tenancy rules in relation to smoking should be clearly communicated to tenants and enforced, with consequences for breaches such as loss of deposit
  • Landlords should consult their tenants on their views and preferences regarding smoke-free environments. This could include a quantitative survey of existing tenants, gathering the views of prospective tenants, and engaging tenants in public consultation events. Public engagement should also involve other relevant sectors such as the fire service, health and schools
  • Landlords and local government should work jointly to gather, develop, and share intelligence around the domestic sale of illegal tobacco with the relevant local partners such as the police and trading standards
  • Policies to help protect staff who have to visit homes as part of their jobs

Download the full report