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.