COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: The danger next door: Drifting tobacco smoke in multi-unit housing

The dangers of secondhand smoke are again back in the spotlight. According to the 2010 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on tobacco, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, and that includes secondhand smoke.
The report also states that damage from tobacco smoke is immediate since chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs very quickly every time you inhale. Inhaling even a small amount of tobacco smoke can damage your DNA and it can lead to serious illness, such as cancer and ultimately death. Infants who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome.
Multi-unit housing is one of the more recent areas of concern. A new study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, shows that children living in multi-unit homes where no one smokes inside have a 45 percent increase in cotinine (a chemical compound found in tobacco) levels compared with children who live in detached homes. It is believed that smoke seeping through walls or shared ventilation systems is the cause for these statistics. The AAP believes smoking bans in multi-unit housing may reduce children’s exposure to tobacco smoke. Residents with chronic health conditions are severely irritated by drifting tobacco smoke as well.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development urged local public housing authorities to establish smoke-free policies and the next step will be a federal policy that protects children in public housing from tobacco smoke. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers the expansion of smoke-free policies, at all levels, to be essential since tobacco smoke poses a threat to families.
The purpose of smoke-free policies is to help protect all apartment residents especially children from secondhand smoke exposure.
California’s sustained campaign against tobacco not only has lowered smoking rates, but there have also been major benefits to public health. Much progress is being made, but there is still more to do to end the tobacco epidemic, children are still being exposed to the dangers of second hand smoke in their homes.
One way you can help in the fight against secondhand smoke is to consider going smoke-free in your apartment building or speaking to your landlord about a smoking policy for the health and welfare of the children in your community.
This is an idea that’s time has come! Smoke-free apartment building and multi- unit housing just makes sense.
For more information on nonsmoking multi-unit housing and apartments, visit northcoastalpreventioncoalition.org/programs/tobacco-control.

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