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Second Hand Smoke in Multi-Unit Housing - An Overview

Given the growing and irrefutable body of scientific knowledge of the health risks posed by secondhand smoke, most Californians are concerned about unwanted exposure, especially in areas not currently regulated by state or local laws.


Tenant complaints: The American Lung Association receives at least 15 complaints a month from tenants who have been unable to resolve unwanted second-hand smoke exposure.

  • The most common complaints cover: Drifting smoke from neighbors, either from shared ventilation or from balconies/windows.
  • Smoking in commonly used areas like stairwells, laundry room, pool area, children’s play area.
  • Residential fires (careless disposal of cigarettes): though only 4 percent of all residential fires were caused by smoking materials in 2002, these fires were responsible for 19 percent of residential fire fatalities and 9 percent of injuries.

Possible Solutions:

  • 1. Conflict resolution/mediation between parties (see handling second hand smoke from neighbors)
  • 2. Landlords phasing in smoke-free addendum to lease agreements and (over time) converting units to smoke-free status and either:
a) making entire building smoke-free; or
b) making sections/floors of units smoke-free.
  • 3. Tenants move
  • 4. Property owners are required to provide smoke-free living:
Local ordinances may prohibit smoking in all common indoor areas of multi-unit housing and/or prohibit smoking in designated outdoor areas, i.e., walkways, doorway buffer zones, window/balcony buffer zones, stairways, children play areas, courtyards, etc.
Others may also prohibit smoking in all common outdoor areas and require all new multi-unit housing have a minimum of 50 percent of units designated smoke-free. Some cities have declared secondhand smoke a  public nuisance. See our links to local cities' websites for information about your area.
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