If you live in an apartment or condominium, you may be living with an unwelcome houseguest—secondhand smoke. Even if no one in your household smokes, secondhand smoke from your neighbors can get into your home in ways you never expected. The danger? More than 10 years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General made it clear that there was no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and the risks include lung cancer, COPD and more. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exposure to secondhand smoke results in 41,000 deaths among nonsmoking adults each year. Let's take a look at how you can protect yourself.

The CDC has released a report that found 20 percent of adults in multi-unit buildings (e.g, apartments and condos) smoked, compared to 14 percent of adults in single-family homes. It also found that apartment and condo buildings were less likely to have smokefree rules, compared to single family homes. This increases the odds that if you live in an apartment or condo building that isn't smokefree, you will be exposed to secondhand smoke. If you think you can just keep the smoke out, guess again.

They say a mouse can squeeze through an opening no more than a quarter inch wide, but mice have nothing on smoke!

Cigarette smoke can easily seep into your home though your ventilation system, tiny gaps under your door or windows, cracks in walls and floorboards, the space between pipes and even through electrical outlets. This means just closing doors, windows and vents won't work. You need tools to help your building go smokefree. Luckily, the American Lung Association can help.

To help you start a smokefree policy where you live, we've created Smokefree Policies in Multi-Unit Housing - Steps for Success. This online curriculum was developed with smokefree policy experts across the country, as part of our Smokefree Housing Initiative. By taking this online course, you can get the information and tools to:

  • Communicate about the health and economic impact of secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing.
  • Engage with building managers, property owners, policymakers, residents and other stakeholders to adopt smokefree multi-unit housing policies.
  • Plan and implement a successful smokefree multi-unit housing policy.
  • Identify resident rights and responsibilities, as well as options for providing services to help smokers quit.

The resources used throughout the course are collected in the "Advocates' Toolbox." If you have any questions about registering for the course, visit Online Learning Course Support to see potential solutions or to request more help.

Even if no one in your household smokes, secondhand smoke from your neighbors can get into your home in ways you never expected.

Posted by American Lung Association on Friday, August 5, 2016

Want to learn more? We also have other tools and information available at Lung.org/smokefreehousing, including:

Once your building goes smokefree, be a good neighbor, and share our tools and tips for quitting with your neighbors who smoke.

Everyone should be able to breathe clean air in their home. Our tools and tips should get you and your neighbors on your way to healthier, smokefree homes by keeping secondhand smoke out. As for keeping the mice out, that's another blog.

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