Multi-Unit Housing Exposes Millions to Secondhand Smoke

By Jaimie Dalessio
Everyday Health, December 14, 2012

Enforcing smoke-free rules in your own apartment or condo may not protect you and millions of people living in multi-unit residences from secondhand smoke exposure, a new CDC study suggests

Living in an apartment building or a house with multiple units can put you at risk for secondhand smoke exposure, even if you enforce smoke-free rules in your apartment, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health reports. These are the first national and state estimates of secondhand smoke infiltration in multi-unit home residences, according to the CDC.
An estimated 26 percent of the U.S. population lives in multi-unit homes such as apartments and condominiums, according to the report. That’s 79.2 million people. And as restaurants, bars, parks, workplaces, and other public places make the switch to smoke-free, exposure to secondhand smoke is increasingly likely to occur in private spaces such as residences.
For the study, the researchers analyzed survey data and defined multi-unit home residents as those who reported live in one-family houses attached to one or more houses, or buildings with between two and 50 or more apartments.
They found that among multi-unit home residents living in smoke-free apartments, roughly 28 to 29 million have experienced secondhand smoke infiltration from neighbors
Past research has linked secondhand smoke to a number of health problems, particularly of the heart and lungs. Some studies have even associated secondhand smoke exposure to hearing loss and diabetes. And children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke’s effects.
Even just 30 consecutive minutes of secondhand smoke exposure can damage the lining of the blood vessels, according to one study.
“A considerable number of Americans reside in multi-unit homes and many of these individuals experience secondhand smoke infiltration in their homes,” the report’s authors write. “Prohibiting smoking in multi-unit homes would help protect multi-unit home residents from involuntary secondhand smoke exposure.”
The findings are published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

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