The Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project (“CTPP”) is awarding grants to several housing organizations to encourage the adoption of smoke-free policies in apartment and condos in Chicago.  The CTPP represents an effort to create more smoke-free multi-unit residential properties in Chicago as part of the project’s overall effort to reduce smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke. The Project is run by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, in collaboration with City of Chicago’s Department of Public Health.  For more information:

The CTPP is part of a two-year, $11.5 million project funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  This project aims to implement city-wide policy strategies designed to decrease tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, with concentrated efforts aimed at high-burden population groups.  The Project will provide technical assistance and other resources to property owners and managers who wish to explore and implement smoke-free policies.  In promoting the Project, it is touted as legal, analogizing such smoking restrictions to policies regarding noise and pets.  “Instituting a smoke-free policy for residential housing is a legal way to improve living environments and air quality for residents.”

Property owners and managers would be well-advised to seek counsel before implementing any such policies.  There are a number of possible legal issues that may arise as a result of the adoption of smoke-free policies.  The goal of reducing exposure to secondhand smoke is laudable; however, it is important to focus on whether achieving that goal might thwart other societal goals.  First, tobacco is a legal product for adults, and issues may arise where property owners and managers seek to alter the terms of an existing residential lease agreement.  A potential argument would be based on the alteration of an individual’s ability to use the property in a manner contemplated at the beginning of the lease and for an otherwise legal purpose.  Another issue might involve liability attaching to the City of Chicago for aiding in possible breaches of contracts or allegations that the initiative amounts to governmental infringement upon private property rights.

As state and local governments increasingly regulate the sale and use of tobacco, the Troutman Sanders Tobacco practice will continue to monitor developments in this area.

For questions and/or comments, please contact Bryan Haynes, at 804.697.1420 or by email.