As Americans continue to spend more time than ever before at home due to COVID-19, some residents of apartments, condominiums, and other types of multi-unit housing report that they are experiencing an increase in secondhand smoke exposure. As both non-smokers and smokers alike are home more frequently, and people are facing the health risks and stressors related to the pandemic, concerns around secondhand smoke exposure at home continue to rise.
There is currently no research on whether COVID-19 can be carried by or transmitted through secondhand smoke. What the science does show is that there is a risk of the virus being transmitted through coughing and sneezing within six feet of an infected person. The U.S. EPA suggests that “there is a possibility that spread of COVID-19 may also occur via airborne particles in indoor environments, in some circumstances beyond the 2 m (about 6 ft) range.”
Given the respiratory risks associated with COVID-19, it is important to reduce all risks to lung health, including smoking, vaping, and exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosol.
The fact that many people are now spending the vast majority of their time at home is all the more reason for individuals to be mindful about not smoking in ways that harm others. People who smoke should go outside away from the building to smoke. Science shows that secondhand smoke can easily travel into non-smoking units of buildings through windows, doorways, the ventilation system, and through gaps around electrical outlets and pipe fixtures.
Drifting smoke and spending more time at home is also an important reason for cities and counties to consider adopting local laws to require multi-unit buildings to be 100% smokefree indoors, and for landlords, property management companies, and condominium HOAs to adopt smokefree policies for their properties. A smokefree building protects the health and safety of all residents, which includes both nonsmoking neighbors as well as family members of people who smoke.
It’s never been a better time to take all the steps we can to protect our health and the health of our communities.
Read more: Smokefree housing resources