Smoking in Buildings Affects all Residents 7

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
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The presence of smoking in a building can significantly diminish the air quality of other units, even those occupied by non-smokers.

A new study has found that blanket bans on smoking achieve a major reduction in hazardous airborne contaminants throughout entire building structures.

The new study from the Boston Housing Authority published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research compared indoor air quality in multi-unit houses where smoking was completely prohibited with those where smoking was permitted.

The study concluded that median household levels of fine particular matter – which is significant of the transfer of second-hand smoke, were roughly 40 per cent lower in buildings with blanket bans on smoking, at 4.8 micrograms per cubic metre versus 8.1.

 The new study confirms previous work indicating that hazardous airborne particles are readily capable of infiltrating non-smoking units from smoking ones, leading to an overall degradation of air quality.

“It’s (smoke transfer) not something that nobody ever knew about before, but it’s demonstrated here again, and the fact that the smoking policy of the building is associated with aerosol levels is supportive of having [building-wide smoke free] policies,” said Elizabeth Russo, lead author of the study and MD, Boston Public Health Commission, Research and Evaluation Office.

The study examined environmental markers for the presence of second-hand smoke, using aerosol monitors to measure fine particulate matter as well as nicotine monitors to determine whether or not such matter was the product of tobacco smoking.

Five different residential developments were included in the study, including 15 households with resident smokers and 17 households without resident smokers. The building types varied, including a three-storey walk-up, as well as mid-rise and high-rise structures.

The study found that particulate matter rose in adjacent units of non-smokers whenever smoking residents indulged in tobacco usage. Levels of particular matter also increased in non-adjacent areas and common areas at times that smokers reported smoking, although to a lesser extent.

“This is just further evidence that having smoking areas within the same building and non-smoking areas within the same building does not confer the same level of protection as having an entire building be smoke-free,” said Russo.

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  1. Dick Rogers

    Yet another thing the tobacco giants almost certainly didn't want us to know and have been covering up.

    I bet their massive and sophisiticated PR machine will use clever and sophisticated techniques to try to head off regulation or further restrictions on smoking in this area as they do with anything that affects their sales (witness, for example, the blatent lies they are telling about plain packaging in Australia and how they are trying to use legal action to stop us down here in Aus from maintaining a law which is having a massive and positive health effect). But try as they might, they cannot hide the truth about how their disgusting products not only impact the health of those who consume them directly but also those who happen to be around where their revolting products are consumed.

    • Orion

      You sound like an antismoking activist. Antismokers (misocapnists/capnophobes) are way, way worse than germaphobes.

    • Scott Ewing

      So Dick, are you a paid tobacco control shill, or just one of the kool-aid drinkers?

  2. Scott Ewing

    In my 20 years as a landlord, I've met with hundreds of prospective tenants. Of those, exactly 1 has declined to rent from me because I allow smoking in my buildings.

  3. Maynard S. Clark

    There's a strong business case for not allowing any smoking of anything in any multi-unit residence. There's also a strong ethical case.

  4. Dick Rogers

    Ok Orion/Scott, I probably went a bit strong. I'm not really an activist or anything like that, nor would I try to unduly attack people's right to smoke so long as it is done with respect to any impact on others through things like passive smoking. Smoking is an individual choice and obviously a balance is needed between an individual right to consume a legal product and the rights of those surrounding them to a healthy environment – whether it should or shouldn’t be allowed in apartments I don’t know.

    What I don’t like is the way the industry consistently downplayed the health effects of smoking over several decades (to give one example, one Phillip Morris representative once compared the health effects of smoking with those of eating apple sauce in a TV interview) and the way they insist plain packaging is not affecting smoking rates yet have engaged in a massive legal and public relations campaign against it (with plain packaging, I don't like trying to stop us implementing a public health initiative either).

    If people choose to smoke, that’s fine. I just would like to see a little more integrity from the tobacco sector in public debate, that’s all.

  5. Roger Jones, P.Eng.

    If we ever move into a condo, or even a retirement home, this will be question number one! No smoke!