Making the business case for clean air

Maryland Department of Health

Secondhand smoke is known to cause coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in adults and numerous health problems in infants and children, including asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome.


Landlords can play a role in eliminating secondhand smoke, but many hesitate to adopt comprehensive polices restricting smoking at their properties, in part because they lack accurate information about the potential financial benefits of these policies and their legal rights as landlord to implement them.


content development
marketing and promotion strategy


The Maryland Smoke-Free Living Campaign is an initiative of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control, which develops and implements campaigns to increase awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and provides information on services available to help Marylanders quit using tobacco.


The main challenge the Smoke-Free Living Campaign faced was to overcome the common misconceptions many landlords had regarding smoke-free policies due to their limited knowledge of the subject. Communications solutions that would speak to the interests of landlords and transform their mindsets were needed.


All Things Creative developed an integrated print and digital campaign designed to educate property owners and managers and public housing authorities on the implementation of smoke-free housing policies. The goal was to create materials that addressed common misconceptions, emphasized the value of smoke-free living from a business and financial perspective as well as a public health perspective, and guided landlords through the process of adopting new smoke-free policies at their properties.


We began by evaluating data from focus groups to assess the target audience’s feelings about, knowledge of, and receptiveness to smoke-free policies. This research guided us in the development of the overall marketing strategy and the content and messaging for the toolkit. Our work on the campaign had several components:

Writing and Content Development

Working with the campaign’s internal project team, we took the initial draft of the toolkit and completely rewrote and restructured the content to eliminate dense legalese and to make the toolkit more accessible to the general public. Then we enhanced the new content with appropriate imagery and supplemental information from research conducted on core health literacy concepts and market-appropriate language.

Theme Development

We designed the toolkit and campaign around the theme “Clearing the Air: The Value of Smoke Free Living.” The phrase “clearing the air” has a literal meaning as well as a non-literal meaning that alludes to the purpose of the campaign—to dispel myths about the value of smoke-free housing.


This theme also focuses on the value proposition. Landlords’ top priorities are protecting their investment, minimizing expenses, and keeping units occupied. All of the benefits discussed in the campaign have a direct impact on the landlord’s bottom line and prove that smoke-free housing is a smart financial decision.


The value proposition extends to the landlord’s target audience as well. After gaining an understanding of the benefits, landlords would be equipped to market this additional value to prospective tenants who shop for quality of life, not just quality of space.

Print Toolkit

We developed an eye-catching and functional printed toolkit that included a guidebook outlining the basic benefits of smoke-free living and steps for adopting a program. The toolkit provided a brief introduction to the program and a variety of resources, including fact sheets, talking points, and sample tools. The materials focused on the myths and realities of smoke-free housing, cost-saving benefits, market demand, legality of implementing smoking restrictions, development and enforcement of policies, and other topics.

Interviews and Video Production

To localize the issue and make the information more relevant and credible, we solicited success stories and advice from others in the Maryland housing industry who had successfully implemented smoke-free properties. We researched and interviewed property managers, residents, and legal representatives and used this information to develop videos. Other tasks involved scripting, storyboarding, on-site filming and photography, and post-production. The goal was to show that the process of implementation was a community effort and not a top-down policy directive.

Digital Toolkit

We developed a digital version of the toolkit that was based on the printed version and restructured for digital interaction. It featured a variety of embedded media and tools: videos that addressed common questions, provided quick tips, and showed success stories and testimonials from other Maryland landlords and tenants; sample surveys, notification letters, leases, addenda, and other tenant communications that could be downloaded and customized; and links to resources on the Maryland Smoke-Free Apartments website.

Direct Mail & Marketing Collateral

In addition to the toolkits, we created marketing materials for the campaign, including signage that property owners could post at their properties and direct mail postcards with peel-off magnets. The goal was to provide property managers with free tools they could use to market the smoke-free program and the toolkit.


Promoting online access to patients’ health records