Children at Risk in Multi-Unit Housing

Report Finds Children in Apartments at Greater Risk of Smoke Exposure

(December 13, 2010)

Less than one week after the U.S. Surgeon General declared that even the smallest level of exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful, a new study appearing in the journal Pediatrics finds that children who live in multi-unit housing have higher levels of tobacco smoke contamination in their blood even when no one smokes in their own apartment.  This new study makes clear that all multi-unit housing must be made smokefree. 

The study, “Tobacco-Smoke Exposure in Children Who Live in Multiunit Housing,” provides evidence that children in apartments have higher blood levels of cotinine, a byproduct of tobacco smoke exposure, compared to children living in attached and detached houses, and that no ventilation system or other alternative provides adequate protection from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. 

 “Children’s respiratory systems are highly vulnerable to harm from tobacco smoke,” said Norman H. Edelman, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. “Even at very low levels of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, vulnerable populations, including people with heart disease and lung disease such as asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the elderly and children, are at greater risk for a variety of tobacco-related illnesses and complications.”

The American Lung Association strongly supports safe, healthful air for all, and urges multiunit housing be made smokefree to eliminate residents’ exposure to deadly secondhand smoke.  We also urge that quit smoking, or tobacco cessation, treatments be made available for all residents so they can get the help they need to quit.

Tobacco costs our country more than $193 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity and kills more than 443,000 people annually. The American Lung Association has several programs that help tens of thousands of smokers take the big step of quitting each year. Freedom From Smoking®provides a personalized step-by-step quit plan and is offered online( or as a group clinic to help smokers work through the problems and process of quitting. The Lung HelpLine, 1-800-LUNG-USA, provides smoking cessation counseling and one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists. 

For more information about quitting smoking, visit, or follow the American Lung Association on Facebook and Twitter.

About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit