Most people know that secondhand smoke poses serious health risks for both children and adults. In 2006 the U.S. Surgeon General reported that “there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure.” People who live in multi-unit housing, such as apartment buildings and condominiums, are at risk if there is not a smokefree policy in place.

Tobacco smoke can migrate throughout an entire building by traveling through ventilation systems, along plumbing and electrical lines, through cracks in the floors and walls. So even if you have a 100% smokefree policy in your home, someone else that smokes in your building can subject you the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from respiratory and ear infections and are more susceptible to getting diseases that are circulating. Children who have asthma are likely to have more frequent and severe attacks when subjected to secondhand smoke, sometimes causing hospitalization. In addition, the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome doubles when an infant is exposed to secondhand smoke.

Adults also suffer from the effects of secondhand smoke, which include damaging the linings of blood vessels, increased risk of lung cancer, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Sick, disabled, or people recovering from illness at home are exposed to the same toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke as the smoker—involuntarily!  

The Santa Rosa County Tobacco-Free Coalition is working to educate multi-unit housing property owners and residents on the benefits of adopting smokefree policies. These benefits include improved health outcomes for tenants, lower costs to owners, and decreased risk of smoking-related fires. Owners may also be able to reduce their insurance premiums as the result of a smokefree policy. For more information call Robbie Leggett at the Santa Rosa County Health Department at 983-5200 x 310.

Jeff Etheridge is the Health Educator Consultant with the Santa Rosa County Health Department in Milton