Are You Exposed to Secondhand Smoke In Your Home?

Learn more about smokefree housing options!

What is Your Housing Situation?


The situation is more complex for residents of multi-unit housing, such as apartments and condominiums. Although  residents may have a smokefree policy for their own unit, secondhand smoke from neighbors who smoke in or around the building can travel through the building and into neighboring units through walls, hallways, ventilation systems, outlets, and gaps around fixtures, lead to exposure. Unfortunately, many people are still faced with breathing secondhand smoke that drifts into their apartment or condominium from other units or common areas.

The CDC’s 2015 Vital Signs report found striking disparities among those Americans who are still breathing secondhand smoke. More than 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke, and 2 out of every 5 children (including 7 out of 10 African American children) are exposed. Despite the tremendous progress the U.S. has made in eliminating secondhand smoke in workplaces and public places, much progress remains to be achieved in protecting everyone’s right to breathe smokefree air in the home.

Thankfully, smokefree multi-unit is now an established and growing housing industry trend throughout the country. Many apartments, condominiums, HOAs, and public housing authorities have adopted smokefree policies for their properties. More than 50 cities and counties have adopted local laws requiring all multi-unit housing in the community to be smokefree.

While most communities do not yet have laws to address this situation, you can still take action. It is important to know that apartment buildings owners, condominium boards, and owner/managers of other types of multi-unit housing do have the right to adopt a policy to not allow smoking in the building(s).

If you are an owner or manager of housing units, you can mitigate both the health risks and financial costs of indoor smoking by implementing a  policy for your properties.

If you are a renter or owner who is suffering from drifting secondhand smoke in your unit, there are steps you can take to work with your property owner/manager to adopt a smokefree policy for the property.

See below for our “Resources for Property Owners & Managers”


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) adopted a rule that requires all Public Housing Agencies (PHA) to adopt and implement a smokefree policy for all of their public housing properties by July 31, 2018. See a statement on the HUD rule implementation from our sister site ANR.

PHAs and building managers are in good company and there are many helpful resources and recommendations to support the process of implementing a smokefree policy.

More than 600 PHAs in at least 46 states already implemented smokefree policies for public housing before HUD adopted their requirement. HUD’s rule is not a brand new idea, but rather it is a continuation of the existing policy trend to expand the availability of smokefree housing for residents living in all types of multi-unit properties. In fact, there are now more than 40 cities and counties that have local laws requiring smokefree air in all types of multi-unit housing, including affordable housing.

HUD’s rule will reduce secondhand smoke exposure and create a healthier and safer living environment for public housing residents by requiring all indoor areas of the properties to be smokefree, as well as within 25 feet of doors and on attached balconies and patios. The decision will help ensure that the 2 million people living in public housing have the ability to breathe smokefree air at home.

Below are resources to support PHAs and building managers with the process of implementing and enforcing a smokefree policy, as well as information for health departments and other health groups that are working to assist PHAs with their policy efforts.


It should come as no surprise that exposure to secondhand smoke at home is just as harmful as exposure in the workplace. Studies showing the level of nicotine in house dust and the effects of secondhand smoke exposure on children highlight  people should not be smoking in the home and that smoke-filled homes should be avoided by everyone. There are several steps that can be taken to ensure that your home remains smokefree, including letting all caregivers,  babysitters, and guests know that they are not to smoke in or around your home, and requesting any smokers who live in the house to smoke outdoors, away from entrances and windows.

See below for our “Resources for Residents”


Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, adult care homes, and other long-term care facilities too often still allow smoking indoors, frequently in a designated smoking room for residents or patients.  Secondhand smoke cannot be contained in a smoking room, even if it has a separate ventilation system. The smoke can drift through the building and exposes other residents and staff members.  Also, staff who have to accompany smokers and clean the smoking rooms are exposed to both toxic secondhand and thirdhand smoke.

In order to improve the health and safety of residents and staff, assisted living facilities and other long-term care facilities should be 100% smokefree indoors. People are living in these facilities because they have serious health issues, are elderly, or are living with disabilities, which means these individuals are all particularly vulnerable to the health risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure.

As of October 1, 2019, 9 states plus Puerto Rico require all nursing homes to be 100% smokefree, as do nearly 350 municipalities and many individual facilities. You can learn more by viewing ANRF’s list of 100% Smokefree Nursing Homes.

  • Secondhand smoke is particularly hazardous to elderly people, individuals with cardiovascular disease, and individuals with impaired respiratory function, including asthmatics and those with obstructive airway disease.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure increases your risk of stroke by 20 – 30%.
  • Breathing secondhand smoke increases your risk of having a heart attack.