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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
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Study: Apartments Pose High Secondhand Smoke Hazards

Research shows that smoke can spread through cracks in fixtures, pipes, shared venitlation systems and windows.


The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that multi-unit housing can expose hazardous secondhand smoke to non-smokers living adjacent to those who do smoke.

Since 2006, secondhand smoke has been classified by the California Air Resources Board as a "toxic air contaminant" that can lead to death, serious illnesse, and a overall health hazards.


Image courtesy Associated Press
Image courtesy Associated Press

Research shows that residents could be exposed to dangerous levels of smoke through cracks in fixtures, electrical outlets, pipes, vents and baseboards, as well as shared venitlation systems and windows.

The study shows that 30 to 50 percent of air came from other units and all buildings, regardless of when they were built, were affected. For non-smokers, the tobacco smoke particles in their housing units can reach levesl equal to and surpassing those of a smoky bar or casino.

"More than 41 percent in our country are in multi-unit buildings and just as you can get smells and noises from one unit to another, the same goes for tobacco smoke," said Dr. Johnathan E. Fielding from the Department of Public Health.

With over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Secondhand smoke can cause severe damage to young children such as ear infections, frequent asthma attacks, repiratory symptoms and create a greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome, the leading cause of death in healthy infants.

A 2007 county health survey showed that a majority of those living in L.A. County are in favor of smoke-free housing. Though 60 percent of smokers and 77 percent of non-smokers believe there should be a law seperating smoking and non-smoking places, the multi-unit structure of the units can still pose a threat because smoke can transfer unit to unit.

"Sixty-six percent agrees or strongly agrees that smoking in an apartment or condominium puts people in other units at risk. And parents who try to protect their child by having smoke free homes have even greater understanding of the harm to others by smoking in units. With 81.5% of them agreeing that smoking in units puts others in the building at risk," said Dr. Jonathan M. Sammet.

The only way to fully protect people from secondhand smoke is to completely rid of smoking in all indoor spaces. While seperating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings is a progressive step, it does not completely protect non-smokers.

Jackie Eco, a tenant and property manager of a rent controlled building in Valley Village who spoke at a press conference Wednesday, described how the tenant living below her smokes to the point where it, "literally seeps ups through the floor causing me to have severe asthma attacks and allergic reactions." 

Eco temporarily moved out of her apartment to aviod the smoke.

"I would like to know why I am not being protected," she said. "Why is my health being compromised for his unhealthy activities?"

County policymakers are working to implement smoke-free housing laws. Mayors from all over thecounty are urging fellow cities to follow their actions.


This is a piece that i've really enjoyed. You are an amazing blogger and hope that you keep up the good work you've done.

Harley, there is no study. I wrote the "Project Director of Tobacco Cessation and Media Initiatives" who was evidently behind this piece and was informed (as I expected):

"we'll see if we can get you in touch with Neil Klepeis or others regarding this data - there is not (sic) official report, just data that we released."

So, no study. Just the usual prevarications.


Mr. Klepeis has a public website: This includes a contact form if you'd like to reach him personally. An update on the building that I manage: more tenants have stepped forward to complain of the nuisance that the smoker is creating as his chainsmoking activities are billowing into his other neighbors' apartments and aggravating THEIR asthma as well.

Ive searched everywhere for this junk study over the last week and still cant find it,Ive even called the los angeles health dept to get a link to it yet nobody knows anything!

Try emailing the organization Smokefree Apartments. Thanks.

The comments from the smokers are proof enough that cooperation and polite requests get people nowhere when dealing with secondhand smoke intrusion into their homes. The only solution is to legislate measures that make protection from secondhand smoke in one's home mandatory for everyone who requests it. The right to protect everyone's health deserves legal protection. Convenient access to a preferred delivery method for a noxious recreational drug for a few people at the expense of their neighbours' health and comfort does not.

No one should ever have to choose between their health and their home. If "if you don't like it, move" is good enough for us, then it is good enough for the smokers who create the problem.

JSidney asked that the "anonymous study" be identified to readers. I wrote the "Project Director of Tobacco Cessation and Media Initiatives" who was evidently behind this piece and was informed (as I expected):

"we'll see if we can get you in touch with Neil Klepeis or others regarding this data - there is not official report, just data that we released."

As usual: nonsense.


Doctors say they can cause a host of vision problems as well.
The Duchess attended the event with her husband and wore a white Reiss dress.
Then, scoop the meat onto a plate lined several paper towels thick to soak
up the grease and you have your own version of low-fat meat.

Jackie, you should be grateful to your smoking neighbor. Without his help you may have never known of the poor sealing between your apartments and perished from smoke inhalation during a fire. I believe the fire and building codes are designed for your safety to prevent such things, and now, thanks you him, you know the problem exists and can properly complain about it and have it remedied.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

I was informed by the experts that all building materials are porous (unless you live at NASA) which is why his smoke (which is a carcinogenic gas) seeps up (he's CHRONICALLY CHAIN-SMOKING) through (not to mention through pipes which even bugs can travel through). Furthermore, when he opens his front door or windows it billows up into my place via millions of cracks around my front door & all my windows. It's an old building & the landlord cannot afford to rip apart the building and re-build it with NASA materials. Anyone seeking a copy of the study can email the organization Smokefree Apartments. Thanks.

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