By JESSICA JOHNSON
Illinois Tobacco-Free Communities Coordinator
for Hult Center for Healthy Living
Have you ever been constantly bothered by the smoke from a neighbor’s cigarette? Chances are most people have experienced the uncomfortable effect of breathing in somebody else’s tobacco smoke or even e-cigarette aerosol. Smoking is a prime example of a behavior choice that affects everyone in close proximity. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no level of exposure to secondhand smoke that is safe. Secondhand smoke is created in two ways: it is exhaled out of the lungs by the person smoking, and it is emitted from the end of a lit cigarette. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.
Maintaining a tobacco-free home is something many property owners and renters choose to do on their own. Unfortunately for those who live in multi-unit buildings — apartments, townhouses, and condos — that choice of tobacco-free can be taken away. Even if someone is not smoking in your apartment, just one person smoking in a building can pollute the air for all residents in adjoining units. Studies show that 35-65% of air is shared in multi-unit housing. This secondhand smoke can seep into your living area through doorways, cracks in the walls, plumbing, and ventilation systems. Unknown to many, thirdhand smoke is smoke that lingers and may be lurking in your carpet, walls, and furniture. Research shows that this thirdhand smoke can also be harmful to one’s health.
Renters and building managers can address this health risk from smoke by having tobacco-free policies in place. These policies can benefit building upkeep and residents alike by:
• Improving indoor air quality in residential units
• Benefiting health of residents, visitors, and staff through elimination of secondhand smoke
• Reducing the risk of residential fires
• Lowering overall maintenance costs in ventilation systems
• Finding “green” building tax credits
Hult Center for Healthy Living, Tazewell County Health Department, Peoria City/County Health Department, and Woodford County Health Department work together on an Illinois Tobacco-Free Communities (ITFC) initiative from the Illinois Department of Public Health. This public health team advocates for comprehensive tobacco-free policies throughout the Tri-County region — not only in multi-unit housing, but also at events, parks, and building campuses. Additionally, because secondhand aerosol emitted from e-cigarettes contains harmful chemicals that could affect others, the team also encourages managers and businesses add e-cigarette restrictions in policies — even policies that fall under the Smoke-Free Illinois Act.
In support of tobacco-free policies, the ITFC public health team has the expertise to offer these services:
• Surveys so property managers can ask residents about the readiness of going tobacco-free
• Sample leases and agreements for a new tobacco-free policy
• Updates on current policies
• Links to smoking cessation
• Educational materials
• Kickoff campaigns
• Marketing and signage for awareness
• Easy enforcement tips
If you are a renter or a property manager interested in taking the first steps toward adopting a tobacco-free policy for your building or want to include an e-cigarette restriction in a current policy, contact our regional Illinois Tobacco-Free Communities team by emailing TobaccoFree@tchd.net, calling your local health department, or Hult Center for Healthy Living at (309) 692-6650. This public health team of professionals is dedicated to improving the community by promoting and assisting with adoption of tobacco-free policies.
— This project was made possible by funds
received from the Illinois Dept. of Public Health with support from Peoria City/County Health Dept.
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