What are some quick things I can do about secondhand smoke?

The long-term solution to secondhand smoke is to live in a building with a no-smoking rule. You may want to work with your landlord toward a no-smoking rule for your building. No-smoking rules have many benefits for landlords and tenants alike: cleaner air, less damage to units, cheaper turnover costs, and a lower risk of fire, to name a few.

In the meantime, here are some quick things you can do to reduce secondhand smoke. Please be aware that none of these methods are 100% effective. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) position statement on secondhand smoke (PDF) says that "Currently, the only way to effectively eliminate health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity."

1. Talk to the smoking neighbor

  • Your neighbor may not realize that their smoke is a problem for you. Politely let your neighbor know that smoke is coming into your apartment.
  • Ask them if they would mind smoking outside so that the smoke does not get into your apartment.
  • Ask them if they would be willing to have their unit insulated and sealed off, as described below.
  • Give them our Neighbor Handout (PDF) to explain why secondhand smoke is a problem.

2. Ask your landlord to improve air filtration:

  • Add more fresh air intake into the ventilation system
  • Clean, change, or install better filters in the ventilation system
  • Restrict the amount of air exhausted through the ventilation system from the residences of tenants who smoke

3. Seal off your apartment and the smoker's apartment:

  • Install door sweeps
  • Fill or patch any cracks in the walls
  • Insulate the air spaces around plumbing pipes
  • Insulate and place outlet covers over electrical outlets

4. Ask your landlord to move you to another unit that does not have any smoking neighbors.

Remember to put all of your requests in writing, and keep copies of everything. We have a Secondhand Smoke Communication Record (PDF) that you can print or save to your computer so you can keep track of all your communications with your landlord, other tenants, and outside agencies.

No one should have to choose between their home and their health, but you may need to consider moving if the other tenants and your landlord do not respond to your requests for a smokefree environment. Please see the link to smokefree housing available through this site.