Residents Are Often Exposed in Their Homes

Are you suffering from secondhand smoke drifting into your apartment or condo?

You are not alone. Secondhand smoke from even one person smoking indoors can drift through the building and into other units, causing health problems and reduced quality of life for other residents.

Residents of multi-unit housing (apartments, condominiums, townhomes) suffer disproportionate levels of secondhand smoke exposure. The CDC’s 2015 Vital Signs report that found more than 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Most cities and states do not yet have laws that address smoking in multi-unit housing. However, many properties now have their own smokefree policies to protect the health of residents and the safety and cleanliness of the building. You can work with your property manager, building owner, or HOA, as well as your neighbors, to adopt a smokefree policy for your building, using the following steps:

First, look at your rental lease or condo rules.

See if it has language restricting where smoking is allowed. If it does, and neighbors are violating the policy, share enforcement tips with your housing provider. If it does not specifically address smoking, there might be terms and conditions about nuisance, noise, or other behaviors that can impact the quality of life and safe enjoyment of the premises, which might be used to make a case that your neighbors should not be smoking in a way that comes into your unit.

Second, remind your housing provider that it is legal to adopt a smokefree policy.

Some housing providers are hesitant to adopt a smokefree policy because they mistakenly think it is illegal or discriminatory to do so. However, they have the right to set reasonable rules that protect the property and its occupants. Typically, a smokefree policy can be adopted for all current and future residents in the same manner as other rules that regulate activities that present a risk to the building or impact other residents, like loud music or pets.  Your housing provider may not know about the benefits of having a smokefree property, including cost savings and reduced risks.

Third, read the documents listed below to learn about what you can do to address secondhand smoke in your building. Keep a log for a few weeks about where and when you experience drifting smoke. Get a letter from your doctor if your health is impacted by the smoke exposure.

Fourth, write a letter to your property manager, building owner, or HOA to ask them to adopt a smokefree policy and include the resources below.

Communicating practical information to your housing provider that shows why it is easy and in their best interest to adopt a smokefree policy can be an effective way to convince him or her to support your desire to be free from unwanted secondhand smoke drifting into your home from elsewhere in or around the building.

Fifth, share your story with your local tobacco control program and City Council member. It’s helpful for them to hear from community members about who is still exposed to secondhand smoke. Your experiences can help inform and motivate communities to take action to expand the availability of smokefree multi-unit housing.