Secondhand Smoke in Multi-unit Housing
Many LA County residents live in multi-unit housing such as apartments, condominiums or other types of homes with shared walls. Residents may not be aware that just as noises and smells can travel from one neighbor’s apartment to another, so can cigarette smoke.
Scientific studies show that toxic secondhand smoke can drift into and out of open windows and doors and can travel through shared air vents and ducts; cracks in walls; gaps around electrical wiring; lights and plumbing; and can even seep through floor boards.
Non-smokers, and even smokers that don’t smoke in their homes, may be exposed to elevated pollution levels for 24 hours a day from breathing in smoke from neighboring apartments. Exposure to secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing is a major problem in LA County and has been shown to cause adverse health effects in adults, children and family pets.
Secondhand Smoke Exposure Still Impacts LA County Residents
According to the 2007 Los Angeles County Health Survey:
- 585,000 adults in LA County reported being exposed to someone else’s cigarette smoke in their home within the previous week. In these households, up to 336,000 children under age 18 have also been exposed to secondhand smoke.
- 60% of smokers in LA County and 77% of non-smokers in LA County believe that there should be a law requiring separate smoking and non-smoking units in multi-unit housing.
In addition to risks of inhaling tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke residues cling to furniture, clothing, rugs, walls and floors, and may linger there for months, mixing with common pollutants to form carcinogens and tiny particles that are potentially hazardous. This means that you may be exposed to residual toxins if a smoker lived in your home before you did, and that even if you can’t see or smell tobacco smoke, the fine particulate matter may still be present in your home.
The U.S. Surgeon General concluded that eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke exposure. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot completely eliminate secondhand smoke exposure.
In LA County, the cities of Burbank, Glendale, South Pasadena, Santa Monica and Calabasas have implemented smoke-free housing ordinances in the past five years.
For more information about secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing:
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR)
Smoke-free Apartments Registry
Breathe California of Los Angeles County
California Air Resources Board
California’s Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing – Smoke Free Housing
Campaign for Smoke-Free Choice in Pasadena Housing
Healthy Lungs @ Home – Cerritos (HLH)