Secondhand Smoke is Toxic Through Walls

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You’re probably aware about the dangers of toxic secondhand smoke. But did you know that you could be exposed to it in your home, even if you don’t allow smoking inside?

While the majority of Californians have made the choice not to allow smoking inside their homes,1 if you’re one of the 31 percent of Californians living in apartments and homes2 with shared walls, floors or ceilings, you could still be exposed to secondhand smoke traveling through vents, pipes, windows and even tiny cracks in drywall and plaster.3 4 Understanding how to avoid secondhand smoke at home means understanding how a non-smoker may become exposed.

Smoke can be absorbed into carpets, furniture, clothes and even toys, and the chemicals from the smoke can be recycled in the air for months.5

Smoke can be absorbed into carpets, furniture, clothes and even toys, and the chemicals from the smoke can be recycled in the air for months.5 

Airing out rooms or separating smoking from nonsmoking residences does not eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.6

If you’re a tenant suffering from toxic secondhand smoke exposure, reach out to your landlord about adopting a smoke-free building policy. The only way to completely prevent exposure to secondhand smoke in apartments is by implementing smoke-free housing policies in all units. Additionally, if you have a medical condition made worse by secondhand smoke, disability laws might help address the problem or even force your landlord to make a change.

If you’re a landlord, you’ll want to consider a smoke-free housing policy, too. It can cost nearly $5,000, on average, in annual costs to properly prepare a multi-unit property such as apartments or homes with shared walls, floors or ceilings, for new tenants if the previous occupants smoked.7 For additional information download the resource guide for both tenants and landlords, contact your local health department.

References renameme

  1. California Department of Public Health. California Tobacco Facts and Figures 2018. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program; 2018.
  2. California Department of Housing and Community Development. California's Housing Future: Challenges and Opportunities. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Housing and Community Development; 2018.
  3. Center for Energy and Environment. Reduction of Environmental Tobacco Smoke Transfer in Minnesota Multifamily Buildings Using Air Sealing and Ventilation Treatments. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Energy and Environment; 2004.
  4. Office on Smoking and Health (US). The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2006.
  5. Jacob P, Benowitz NL, Destaillats H, et al. Thirdhand Smoke: New Evidence, Challenges, and Future Directions. Chem Res Toxicol. 2016;30(1):270-294.
  6. Office on Smoking and Health (US). The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2006.
  7. Ong MK, Diamant AL, Zhou Q, Park HY, Kaplan RM. Estimates of smoking-related property costs in California multiunit housing. Am J Public Health. 2012;102(3):490-3.