Secondhand smoke truly dangerous

First Posted: 10/9/2014

We all know by now that living with a smoker can be seriously bad for your health. But living next door to a smoker can be equally dangerous.

If you live in multi-unit housing — that means apartment complexes, duplexes or any other place that more than one family resides — there’s a good chance you are being exposed to secondhand smoke, even if you can’t see it.

Think of it this way: if someone is frying bacon in the next apartment, you can most likely smell it in yours. The same holds true for cigarette smoke. The toxic fumes make their way through cracks in doorways, heating ducts and through pipes in walls.

If you think secondhand smoke is no big deal, think again. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogenic. That is a classification reserved for substances known to cause cancer in humans, and there is no such thing as a safe level of exposure to Group A toxins.

Children living in an apartment building where smoking is allowed have high levels of cotinine in their blood, even when nobody in their unit smokes. Cotinine is a measure of nicotine level in your blood.

Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause immediate adverse effects including eye and throat irritations, coughing, chest discomfort and difficulty breathing. Long-term, it can be a significant factor in illness and disease including lung cancer, heart disease, COPD, asthma, strokes, emphysema, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and impotence.

Activate Allen County is working with tenants and owners of multi-unit housing complexes to make the transition to a smoke-free environment. For owners and landlords, there are advantages to going smoke-free, including cost savings on unit cleaning and a unique opportunity to market to a rapidly growing base of renters seeking smoke-free housing. For tenants, the advantages are even greater, including a longer, healthier life for you and your family.

If you live in or own multi-unit housing and want help making the move to tobacco-free living, you can go to and find tool kits to help out.

Activate Allen County is made possible through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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