12274 Bandera Rd., Ste. 210
Smoke-Free Housing ConsultantsHelotes, Texas 78023
(210) 383-3244

Apartment Owner/Management Company 

            Re:      Smoking in apartments buildings 

            As a former Certified Apartment Manager, I have been working professionally with residents and property owners on problems involving drifting tobacco smoke in apartments and condos all over the United States since 2001. 

            Many property owners and managers are not yet aware of the unmanageable danger to non-smoking residents in multi-unit housing when smoking and non-smoking units are mixed in the same building. When one person smokes in an apartment, on a balcony, patio, or in a connecting courtyard all adjoining units accumulate concentrations of the smoke causing a poisonous air environment for everyone. What can appear to be even a small amount can cause illnesses in non-smoking residents, such as asthma, heart disease, even cancer that otherwise would have been avoided, and will seriously exacerbate chronic illnesses that already exist. Illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, lupus, AIDS, cancer, as well as an enormous list of other ailments can result in extreme suffering when residents are forced to live with the smoke. Infants and toddlers are severely affected by small amounts of smoke as their lungs and hearts and not fully developed. 

            When smoking is permitted in any building the smoke does not stay in the home or area where the smoking occurs.  It just takes one lit cigarette, cigar or pipe in an apartment or outdoor area to spread the more than 4000 dangerous burning chemicals through doorways, windows, walls, electrical and plumbing fixtures - into every adjoining unit. According to James Repace, a former physicist with the EPA, 60% of the air in an apartment building is shared by all residents, even with separate heating and air conditioning units.

            Unfortunately we have found there is no filtration system that can eliminate the chemicals that cause bodily harm. They can only mask or remove the odors. These odors, like those put in natural gas, are a sensory sign of impending danger to human life and should not be removed. In addition, Ozone generators not only fail to remove the particles and chemical pollutants, but can deaden one's sense of smell and damage the lungs.  

            Mr. Repace states, “No type of air filtration is recommended for control of secondhand tobacco smoke. Air filtration is only for professional applications where industrial hygienists or engineers are in control and there is a regular well-funded maintenance program, and they are NEVER used for carcinogen control unless they are in a gas-mask.” I am sure you are aware that more than 60 of the 4000 plus chemicals in tobacco smoke include carcinogens (cause cancer).

            The President of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air‑ Conditioning Engineers, Inc.) and governing agency for all air filtration systems in the United States, Lee W. Burgett, made the following statement in a letter he sent to me last year, “In response to your letter of February 7, 2006, I have consulted with some of the authors of ASHRAE’s Position Document on Environmental Tobacco Smoke. You are correct in noting that in apartments and condos smoke can travel from one space to another and that separate HVAC systems may not eliminate such smoke transport. Typical practice in many buildings doesn’t meet the tightness criterion.”

             It has been proven that even the most efficient construction, patching, caulking, or use of air filtration systems cannot stop the smoke with its chemicals from drifting throughout a building. The only solution is to require that buildings where non-smokers live include no-smoking clauses in the lease or an addendum.                       

            Surveys across the country have shown that over forty percent of residents in multi-unit housing have experienced the problem of tobacco smoke drifting into their home from that of a neighbor, patios and/or courtyards. Thirty percent of those residents noted they, or someone they live with, had a medical condition that is aggravated by tobacco smoke.       

            All management companies have a "pet policy" to protect their properties. Now many have developed "smoking policies". From a liability point of view it is legal and advisable to provide 100% smoke-free buildings for your non-smoking residents. In addition to health issues from the secondhand smoke, unexpected fire dangers are a constant threat as a result of someone falling asleep with a lit tobacco product or carelessly discarded cigarette. When smoking becomes a problem for good non-smoking residents, they are generally forced to move for their safety.

             For information on what the law says (such as "smoking is not in a protected class"), please visit my Web site at www.S-FHC.com.

             There are a number of ways to begin the process of transitioning one or more buildings to smoke-free. I can provide sample addendums to leases and rules and regulations for your property; sample educational letters for residents on how the transition works and how it will affect them and their guests; and I am available to answer all questions, concerns, and issues that might come up.

            Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can be of assistance.


Smoke-Free Housing Consultants

Jacque Petterson