Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 1:27pm

Statewide Initiative Supports Safe and Healthy Housing

October 4 kicks off Fire Prevention Week, a national event encouraging fire safety. Sadly, smoking cigarettes is the number one cause of fire deaths--and it´s completely preventable. To help reduce home fires and deaths, the statewide Clear Gains Initiative, Public Health Madison and Dane County, the Madison Fire Department and the Tobacco Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition are teaming up to encourage Madison rental property owners to make their properties smoke-free.
Clear Gains is Wisconsin’s smoke-free housing initiative and provides resources to assist property owners and managers implement voluntary smoke-free policies.  The hope is that this local initiative will help generate a model for the rest of Wisconsin to follow.

“Fires caused by cigarettes are frequently more dangerous than other fires,” said Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis. “For example, a carelessly discarded cigarette can ignite the furniture next to a sleeping individual, and that person may quickly find themselves trapped in a fire.”
Nina Gregerson, Assistant Coordinator for the Tobacco Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition (TFCDC -- which is housed within Public Health Madison and Dane County) echoed those statements, “In addition to their potential to take lives, home fires can also average over $20,000 in damage. Between the years of 2005-2011, 88% of all property losses in Madison were due to smoking-related fires in multi-unit properties. The TFCDC is committed to reducing the impact of smoking-related fires and their potential to cause property damage and loss of life. We have assisted over 25 properties throughout the county in implementing smoke-free policies, which translates over 3,000 units and 7,500 Dane County residents now covered by smoke-free policies. We have also identified over 200 that already have a policy in place. Smoke-free policies in rental properties are definitely becoming the norm in this area.”
TFCDC also cited other compelling reasons for making properties smoke-free, including:

  • Cost savings: The cost to turn over a smoke-free rental unit to a new tenant can be  at least $800 per unit cheaper than cleaning up a unit occupied by smokers;
  • Popularity: 99% of property managers who implemented smoke-free policies felt it was a good decision; 
  • Legality: Property owners are within their rights to enact a smoke-free housing policy in public or private housing;
  • Health: Smoke-free housing means that non-smoking neighbors will not be involuntarily exposed to the health hazards of second hand smoke of others in the building.

 Gregerson shared that a number of resources are available for property managers at the Clear Gains campaign website, including lease language, timelines for implementation, compliance letters and policy reminders. “The site is pretty comprehensive, but if you don’t see something that you need, let us know and we’d be happy to work with you.” 
For more information on the benefits of going smoke-free, or if your property is already smoke-free and want to list it as such, contact Nina Gregerson at 608-243-0434 or
Free "quit tobacco" assistance is also available through the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT NOW.