Exposure to secondhand smoke has been reported to cause health problems and death among non-smokers. According to a new study, non-smokers who live in a building where smokers reside are exposed to second-hand smoke. The findings were published online on August 25 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
The authors note that secondhand smoke is currently a health concern for people living in multiunit housing, where smoke has been shown to readily travel between units. Thus, in these environments, building-wide smoke-free policies are a logical step to minimize smoke exposure. Therefore, they conducted a study to assess whether buildings with smoke-free policies have less secondhand smoke than similar buildings without such policies. In addition, they evaluated potential secondhand smoke transfer between apartments with and without resident smokers.
The investigators measured fine particulate matter (PM2.5), airborne nicotine, and self-reported smoking activity in 15 households with resident smokers and 17 households where no one smoked’ the study was conducted in five Boston Housing Authority developments. Among them, four apartment pairs consisted of adjacent apartments with and without resident smokers. In addition, the halls between apartments and outdoor air were monitored to capture potential smoke transfer and provide background PM2.5 concentrations.
The investigators found that households within buildings with smoke-free policies had lower PM2.5 concentrations compared to buildings without these policies (average: 4.8 vs. 8.1 µg/m3). However, the greatest difference in PM2.5 between smoking-permitted and smoke-free buildings was found in households with resident smokers (14.3 vs. 7.0 µg/m3). In addition, households without resident smokers had a significant difference (5.1 vs. 4.0 µg/m3). Secondhand smoke transfer to smoke-free apartments was obvious between directly adjacent households.
The authors concluded that their study documented instances of secondhand smoke transfer between households as well as lower PM2.5 measurements in buildings with smoke-free policies. The asserted that building-wide smoke-free policies can limit secondhand smoke exposure for everyone living in multiunit housing.
The authors are affiliated with: Boston Public Health Commission, Boston, MA; Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA; Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA; Mongan Institute for Health Policy, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Boston Housing Authority, Boston, MA; and Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA.
Take home message:
If you are an apartment dweller and wish to avoid secondhand smoke, determine whether the entire building has a smoke-free policy. Also, avoid renting an apartment in which a smoker or smokers previously resided. Third-hand smoke, which is present in these units is also harmful.