One of the most crucial ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of secondhand smoke (SHS) is to maintain a 100 percent smoke-free home. While smoking may not be permitted inside your own home, drifting SHS from nearby and adjacent apartments or condos can affect you. It has been proven that tobacco smoke transfers from one unit to nearby units and hallways. Tobacco smoke can move along air ducts, through cracks in the walls and floors, through elevator shafts, and along plumbing and electrical lines affecting units that are nearby and even on other floors.1 2
While a home should always be a safe place for children, the fact is that the primary place young children breathe SHS is in their own homes. Exposure to SHS increases a child’s risk of respiratory infections and common ear infections. Children with asthma who are exposed to SHS are likely to experience more frequent and more severe attacks, which can put their lives in danger. Exposure to SHS also doubles an infant’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).3
Children are not the only ones affected. Parents, neighbors, and those who are sick, disabled or recovering from illness at home may think they’re avoiding SHS inside their own home. But, many living in apartments and condos are involuntarily exposed to toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke from nearby units. Those who are smoking inside their homes may have no idea they’re affecting their neighbors.
While the serious health risks of SHS are more widely known and understood, the issue of tobacco smoke in multi-unit housing remains complex and challenging. Respectful and considerate tenants try their best to be accommodating to their neighbors. In fact, most Americans clearly value privacy in their own homes and support protecting the privacy of others. However, there can be situations where the well-being of one group supersedes the actions of another. Tobacco smoke in multi-unit housing is one of those situations.
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- There is indisputable evidence that implementing 100 percent smoke-free environments is the only effective way to protect the population from the harmful effects of exposure to SHS. 4
- Opening a window; sitting in a separate area; or using ventilation, air conditioning, or a fan cannot eliminate SHS exposure. 5
- Survey findings indicate that tenants are often bothered by tobacco smoke and that four out of five non-smokers would prefer a smoke-free building policy.6 In fact, more than 82 percent of Florida adults are non-smokers. 7
- If a resident has a medical condition made worse by SHS drifting into his or her apartment, he or she may be protected under federal and state disability laws. Depending on the nature of the disability, the landlord may be required to take action to eliminate exposure to SHS. 8
- Courts have held that the due-process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which limit government interference in personal liberty and privacy, provide only the most minimal level of protection for smoking.9 10 11
- Smoke-free housing has economic benefits, such as insurance discounts that many property insurance companies offer to buildings with no-smoking policies.12
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that construction and maintenance costs are 7 percent higher in buildings that allow smoking than in buildings that are smokefree. 13
- On September 15, 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a policy memo strongly encouraging Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to implement non-smoking policies in some or all of their public housing units. Click here to download the document.
- There is no risk-free level of exposure to SHS. Breathing even small amounts of secondhand smoke can be dangerous. 14
- SHS contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and 69 that can cause cancer.15
- Each year, primarily due to exposure to SHS, an estimated 3,000 non-smoking Americans die of lung cancer. 16
- Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. 17
- Each year, primarily because of exposure to SHS, more than 46,000 non-smoking Americans die of heart disease.18 19
- Non-smokers who are exposed to SHS at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent. 20
- Inhaling SHS could be enough to block arteries and trigger a heart attack in someone whose arteries are silently clogged. 21
- Almost 3 million children in the U.S. under the age of 6 breathe secondhand smoke at home at least 4 days per week. 22
- In the first two years of life, children exposed to SHS from their parent’s smoking have more than a 50 percent increased risk of getting bronchitis and pneumonia. 23
- Infants who die from SIDS have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs and higher levels of cotinine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke) than infants who die from other causes.24
- Children are more likely to have lung problems, ear infections, and severe asthma from being around tobacco smoke. In fact, more than 40 percent of children who go to the emergency room for asthma attacks live with smokers. A severe asthma attack can put a child’s life in danger.25
- More than 300,000 children suffer each year from infections caused by tobacco smoke, including bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections. 26
- In Florida alone, 2,520 non-smokers died from exposure to SHS in 2010. 27
- In 2011, 10.1 percent of Florida high school students and 10.1 percent of Florida middle school students lived in a home where smoking was allowed inside. 28
- Since 2007, 29.3 percent fewer Florida high school students and 56.4 percent fewer middle school students lived in a home where smoking was allowed inside.29