Environmental (Secondhand) Tobacco Smoke

What is Environmental Tobacco Smoke?

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) is also known as secondhand smoke, and consists of exhaled smoke from smokers and side stream smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 substances, including more than 60 of which are known carcinogens.

Common Health Effects of Exposure to ETS

Secondhand smoke can trigger asthma; irritate the eyes, nose, and throat; respiratory illnesses; lung cancer; and ear infections in children.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the United States. About 800 of these are estimated to be from exposure to secondhand smoke at home, and 2,200 deaths are from exposure in work or social situations. In addition, current smokers and former smokers are at greater respiratory risk from other exposures such as asbestos and radon.

Smoking is also associated with an increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), and low birth weight.

According to EPA, children's exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for:

    1. increased number of asthma attacks and severity of symptoms in 200,000 to 1 million children with asthma
    2. between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (for children under 18 months of age)
    3. respiratory tract infections resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year.

Actions you can take:

  • Take the smoke-free pledge.
  • Choose to smoke outside.
  • Don't smoke around your children.
  • Don't allow babysitters or others who visit the home to smoke around your children.
  • Call Quitline Iowa (1-800-QUIT-NOW) for help.

Reasons to Explore Smoke-Free Housing

Smoke-free housing policies can help save money, reduce tenant complaints, improve the health of tenants and building, and increase market share.

Reducing Operating Costs

    • Apartment turnover costs can be 2-7 times greater when smoking is allowed, compared to the cost of maintaining and turning over a smoke-free unit.
    • Some insurance companies offer discounts on property casualty insurance for multi-unit owners with a 100% smoke-free policy. Ask your carrier today!
    • Smoking is a leading cause of residential fire and the number one cause of fire deaths in the U.S.

Tenants Prefer Smoke-Free Housing

    • Several statewide surveys demonstrate that as many as 78% of tenants, including smokers, would choose to live in a smoke-free complex.
    • Secondhand smoke complaints and requests for unit transfers drop following the implementation of a smoke-free policy. Nationwide, less than 21% of the general population smokes, so it makes sense that a vast majority of tenants want to live in a smoke-free environment.

Tenant Health Improves with Smoke-Free Housing

    • There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and the EPA has identified secondhand smoke as a Class A carcinogen, the most toxic class of chemicals that are known to cause cancer in humans.
    • Secondhand smoke is a leading trigger of asthma attacks and other respiratory problems and a known cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
    • Secondhand smoke is classified as a "toxic air contaminant", putting it in the same class of other contaminants including asbestos, lead, vehicle exhaust, and a host of other chemicals strictly regulated in the U.S.
    • Ventilation systems do not protect families from secondhand smoke. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), "At present, the only means of effectively eliminating health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking."
    • Research demonstrates that up to 65% of air can be exchanged between units and that smoke travels through tiny cracks, crevices and chasing, involuntarily exposing individuals in adjacent units.

Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/asthma/shs.html