Exposure to secondhand smoke is problematic for residents living in multiunit housing, as the smoke migrates through shared ventilation systems, unsealed cracks, and door spaces. The objective of our research was to assess resident exposure to secondhand smoke, support for no-smoking policies, and the health impacts of no-smoking policies in multiunit housing.
Surveys of 312 heads of households who resided in 1 of 3 multiunit buildings managed by a Colorado public housing authority were administered before and after implementation of a no-smoking policy that prohibited smoking in all resident apartments and all indoor common areas. A matched-pairs analysis of initial surveys and 15-month post-policy implementation surveys for 115 respondents was conducted.
Decreases were found in the number and percentage of smokers who smoked every day and the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and 30% had quit smoking 15 months after policy implementation. The percentage of residents who smelled secondhand smoke indoors declined significantly. A significant decrease in breathing problems was found after policy implementation. Although decreases were found in the incidence of asthma attacks, emphysema/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, eye irritation, colds, nasal congestion, and ear/sinus infections, these decreases were not significant.
Consistent findings across nearly all variables tested suggest that no-smoking policies reduce resident exposure to secondhand smoke, lower the incidence of secondhand smoke-associated breathing problems, decrease daily smoking and cigarette consumption, encourage smoking cessation, and increase quit attempts. If implemented in all multiunit housing, these policies could reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and health problems associated with secondhand smoke, promote smoking cessation, and reduce cigarette consumption.