Tobacco-Free Environments

Creating a tobacco free environment for yourself and people around you is important for a healthy, tobacco-free lifestyle. Learn about why you should create a tobacco-free environment and how to do so.

Apartments and Condominiums

Secondhand smoke from even one tenant smoking indoors can drift into other units and cause health problems for other residents. Scientific studies show that smoke from a neighboring apartment can travel through ventilation systems, pipes, walls, open windows and doors, electrical sockets and even tiny cracks in plaster and drywall (1). Tobacco smoke is also absorbed into walls, floors, furniture, clothes, toys and other household surfaces within minutes to hours after it is exhaled (2). Chemicals in the smoke can then be recycled into the air for hours, days and even months (3).

Separating the smoking from nonsmoking units within the same building does not always provide protection (4). In addition, air filtration and other ventilation systems do not eliminate the health hazards caused by secondhand smoke.

The only way to completely prevent exposure to secondhand smoke is to not allow smoking in indoor spaces. Owners of apartment buildings have the right to make their buildings smoke-free. Smokefree policies in multi-unit housing are becoming more common because housing providers around the country recognize their many benefits:

  • Preventing damage to the interior of units, such as carpets, walls and draperies
  • Eliminating the cost of repairs and cleaning from secondhand smoke damage
  • Preventing fires and subsequent injuries, death and major property damage
  • Lowering insurance premiums
  • Protecting resale value
  • Reducing liability and protecting the health of tenants

If you’re a tenant and are suffering from drifting secondhand smoke in your unit, there are steps you can take to work with your neighbors and landlord to adopt a smokefree policy for your building.

  • Work with your landlord and neighbors to adopt a smokefree policy for your building. Perhaps have a word with them and mention the idea of installing something like a home security cameras wireless outdoor in order to deter and prevent smoking on the property. Share resources and practical information about the hazards and costs of secondhand smoke with them. Educating your landlord and other tenants will be more effective than angry confrontation.
  • Check your lease. Although it might not specifically address smoking, there might be language in it about noise or other types of behaviors that can impact your quality of life. You might be able to make a case that secondhand smoke drifting into your unit affects your quality of life and safety.
  • Second, remind your landlord that it is legal to adopt a smokefree policy. Many landlords are hesitant to adopt a smokefree policy because they mistakenly think it is illegal or discriminatory to do so. Even with an existing lease, a no-smoking lease addendum can be added at any time.

In addition, if you have a medical condition made worse by secondhand smoke drifting into your apartment, federal and state disability laws might help you address the problem. Depending on the nature of your disability, your landlord may be required to make changes to reduce your exposure.

References ?
  1. Center for Energy and Environment. Reduction of Environmental Tobacco Smoke Transfer in Minnesota Multifamily Buildings Using Air Sealing and Ventilation Treatments. 2004.
  2. American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Thirdhand Smoke in Apartment and Condos: Recommendations for Landlords and Property Managers.
  3. G E Matt, P J E Quintana, M F Hovell, J T Bernert, S Song, N Novianti, T Juarez, J Floro, C Gehrman, M Garcia, S Larson. Households Contaminated by Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Sources of Infant Exposures. 2004.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Secondhand Smoke What It Means to You. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.


Secondhand smoke in a car is so hazardous that breathing it is dangerous for anyone, but especially for children. In general, babies and children breathe in more air than adults because they have smaller lungs and breathe faster. They also have little or no control over their environments and cannot leave if secondhand smoke is bothering them. As a result, children exposed to secondhand smoke run a greater risk of damaging health effects.

  • Children who breathe secondhand smoke on a regular basis are at a higher risk for middle-ear infections. (1, 2)
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke can not only bring on asthma attacks, but can also cause asthma in children. (1, 2)
  • Babies and children younger than age 6 who are exposed to secondhand smoke regularly are more likely to get respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. (1, 2)

Rolling the windows down will not get rid of secondhand smoke and neither will holding your cigarette out the window or using the car’s air conditioner.

A survey released in July 2013 found that 82% of US adults favor prohibiting smoking in vehicles when children under age 13 are present. The survey found broad-based support for the policy, including support from a majority of current smokers (60%), former smokers (84%) and never smokers (87%). (3)

You can protect children from secondhand smoke

  • Choose not to smoke in your car and home and do not allow family, friends and visitors to do so.
  • Do not allow childcare providers or others who work in your home to smoke.
  • Until you can quit, choose to smoke after you get out of the car.
References ?
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Fact Sheet: “Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking,” 1993. [Back]
  2. State of California Air Resources Board. Proposed Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant. Executive Summary, 2005.
  3. 12 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, National Poll on Children’s Health, “Broad public support for banning smoking in vehicles with kids present,” July 22, 2013.

Your Home

Secondhand smoke in a home moves from one room to another, even if doors are closed. Smoke can travel under doors, through windows and through cracks in walls. Even if you open a window and use a fan to pull the smoke outside, there will still be some secondhand smoke in the air. Air purifiers and air fresheners will not remove the poisons found in secondhand smoke. Smoke from just one cigarette can stay in the home for hours (1). The toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke cling to rugs, curtains, clothes and other materials.

Mothers who smoke or breathe secondhand smoke while pregnant expose their unborn baby to all the chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke damages the baby’s growing brain and lungs. Secondhand smoke exposure can lead to several pregnancy problems including:

  • Premature Delivery
  • Low Birth Weight (babies that are too small)
  • Stillbirth
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Children’s lungs continue to develop for years after birth. Breathing secondhand smoke as a child can cause severe health problems. Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to:

  • Die from SIDS
  • Suffer from infections
  • Develop bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections
  • Cough and wheeze

Children and adults with asthma are at an even greater risk when someone smokes around them. Breathing secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack.

Good reasons to keep your home smokefree

  • Secondhand smoke in the home puts children and others with health problems at risk.
  • The risk of fires will be reduced.
  • Tobacco-free rules in the home can help smokers quit, prevent youth smoking and model healthy behaviors for children.
  • Less time and money will be spent cleaning carpets, draperies, windows and walls stained by smoke.
  • A smokefree home will smell better and be more inviting.
  • Smoking in the home harms pets.

Keep your home smokefree

  • Have a special smoking area outside of the home and away from your family
  • Keep cigarettes, cigars, pipes, your lighter, your ashtray and other similar items out of shared spaces
  • Don’t allow other family members, friends or visitors to smoke in your home
  • Put up signs that indicate you have a smokefree home
References ?
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: A Report of the Surgeon General: The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.