aparment3.jpgAs many as 29 million Americans living in multi-unit buildings who don't smoke in their own apartments are affected by secondhand smoke from neighboring apartments -- according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study was published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research Journal.

Just because you keep your own apartment smoke-free doesn't mean that you're not still breathing in secondhand smoke from your neighbor. Cigarette smoke can easily seep into next-door apartments in multi-unit buildings. There is no way to completely eliminate this exposure. Secondhand smoke affects many parts of the human body in both children and adults.

A recent study conducted by lead author Zhen Wang, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said that exposure to secondhand smoke puts children with asthma at nearly double the risk of winding up in the hospital. The review included 25 studies involving more than 430,000 children.

Cigarette smoke travels through walls, doors, electrical outlets and ventilation systems. The residue seeps into carpets, curtains, furniture and drywall. The toxic residue referred to as thirdhand smoke is almost impossible to remove. It remains on surfaces for months and becomes more toxic over time.

Smoking is the number one cause of home fire deaths in the United States.
Every year, men, women and children are killed in home fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials. Most victims of smoking-related fires never thought it could happen to them. These fires can affect not only the smoker, but others living in or next to the home at the time of the fire. Some of these fires have been documented in the Fargo Forum.

*North Dakota's smoke free law prohibits smoking in most indoor public places, including common areas of apartment buildings, such as hallways, laundry rooms, recreation/common rooms, lobbies, and similar types of areas as well as 20 feet from public entrances. This law, however, does not apply to individual units in multiunit housing. The policies in those units are decided by the building owner.

What can you do?

The good news is that many landlords are choosing to offer smoke-free housing. Talk to your landlord or your local housing authority about making your building smoke-free. A smoke-free building is healthier for residents and it’s also easier to keep clean and less expensive to maintain. Here are some tips for having that conversation:

1. Start the conversation by sharing the Benefits of Going Smoke-free  and explain how secondhand smoke is affecting you.

2. Write a letter to your landlord requesting a no-smoking rule and include any specific issues you're experiencing with secondhand smoke.

3. Talk to your neighbors about secondhand smoke and build support. Chances are they also prefer smoke-free housing. Consider asking them to talk to the landlord as well.

4. If you have a disability that you think is related to secondhand smoke, such as asthma or smoke allergies, you may ask your landlord for "reasonable accommodations" to allow you to use your housing just like everybody else.

Reasonable accommodations might include making your building smoke-free, being moved to a non-smoking building with separate ventilation or sealing off your apartment.
Read about the Fair Housing Act for more information.

You can also help promote smoke-free housing by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Locate Smoke-Free Housing
You can find a smoke-free property through the ND Apartment Association. To look for a smoke-free apartment, make sure to check the "Smoke-Free" box under amenities.

Help is Available
To help guide you through this process or if you have questions or concerns regarding smoke-free housing, contact your Local Public Health Unit.

Tenant Documents
ANR Advice on Incentives for Smokefree Housing

How to Get Started on Smoke-Free Housing

Ventilation and Air Filtration The Science

ASHRAE Environmental Tobacco Smoke 2013

Nicotine & Tobacco Research
Secondhand Smoke Transfer in Multiunit Housing

Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure In Children 

Cost-Savings Associated with Prohibiting Smoking

National and State Estimates of Secondhand Smoke Infiltration Among US Multiunit Housing Residents