Secondhand Smoke Permeates Many Apartment Buildings:
SUNDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- A new survey of American
apartment dwellers reveals that upwards of a third of nonsmoking
residents sniff the stench of secondhand smoke in their building's
public spaces, while almost half smell it within their own
"As a pediatrician, I have had a lot of feedback from parents who have been telling me that this is really a significant issue for them," said study author Dr. Karen Wilson. "But I do think for many people this is a relatively new concept to think about, in terms of looking at the situation and the potential impact, and then being able to do something about it."
Wilson is the section head of pediatric hospital medicine at
Children's Hospital Colorado, and an assistant professor of
pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The
findings are set for Sunday presentation at the annual meeting of
the Pediatric Academic Societies, in Boston.
The survey focused on the experiences of 323 nationally
representative respondents, and was conducted by the American
Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, an
advocacy group aimed at safeguarding children from cigarettes and
The researchers surveyed apartment residents whose own homes had
been smoke-free for a minimum of three months. All the participants
were drawn from a larger 2011 Social Climate Survey.
They were asked about their building's smoking restrictions;
family composition; where they smelled secondhand smoke and how
Among those who reported smelling secondhand smoke, 38 percent
said it happened weekly and 12 percent said they noticed the smell
Nonsmoking residents were more likely to indicate that the smell
of secondhand smoke was an issue in common areas if they had
children: 41 percent of respondents with children reported some
degree of public area smoke incursion, compared with 26 percent of
Households with children were less likely to report such smoke
incursions within their own unit: 34 percent vs. 60 percent among
The survey found that those whose housing costs were
underwritten to some degree by government subsidies were also more
likely to report smoke incursion.
Building regulations only seemed to have an appreciable impact
on secondhand smoke if they involved total bans, the survey found.
Smoke-free buildings had lower rates of common-area smoking
incursion than those with no restrictions. By contrast, secondhand
smoke smells in public spaces was as much of a problem in buildings
featuring common-area-only bans as they were in buildings featuring
no restrictions whatsoever.
"We clearly saw that a total ban is much more effective than a partial ban," Wilson noted. "And with that I would say that while I absolutely support moves to ban smoking in the workplace, at the very least adults have some choice in the matter in terms of their being able to leave a job or go somewhere else if they come into a work environment where smoking is still allowed. Children in the home, however, do not have that choice."
"Parents need to advocate and speak up, and say 'I don't want my children to be exposed while they're sleeping, doing their homework or playing at home,'" she added. "And they should ask their landlord about smoking regulations in any apartment building they're considering before they move in."
For her part, one advocate said that the issue of smoking
incursion in apartment dwellings complements her organization's
prime focus "to get smoke-free indoor air everywhere we can."
"We certainly think that residents have an absolutely legitimate right to at least know whether they are going to be exposed to this kind of health risk when they are considering moving into an apartment," said Marie Cocco, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Because we know that secondhand smoke is a deadly substance that contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which, at least, cause cancer."
Cocco said her organization has publicly endorsed measures, such
as the one recently unveiled by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
which would require multi-dwelling apartment buildings to fully
disclose their smoking policy to all prospective renters and
"The Surgeon General has clearly [described secondhand smoke risks such as] lung cancer and heart disease among adults, and respiratory and ear infections and asthma among babies and children," she added.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
For more on secondhand smoke, visit the
American Cancer Society.
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