Secondhand, Thirdhand… Smoke-Free

by Jessica Draper
Hult Center for Healthy Living

The Hult Center is dedicated to improving community health by assisting with the adoption of smoke-free policies.

Have you ever been bothered by a neighbor that smokes? Have you been disrupted on campus, at the park or a residential pool by someone smoking right next to you? Chances are, the majority of people have experienced the uncomfortable effects of secondhand smoking.

Smoking is a prime example of a behavior choice that affects everyone around the smoker. 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 smoker, 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. Due to the scientific evidence proving the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke, smoke-free initiatives have thrived across the nation. On January 1, 2008, the Smoke-Free Illinois Act went into effect, prohibiting smoking at places of employment and inside public places—with a few specific exceptions, such as stores selling tobacco products and related items.

The Hult Center for Healthy Living receives funding through the Peoria City/County Health Department to advocate for smoke-free policies throughout Peoria County. The Hult Center works with multi-unit housing, local college campuses and other outdoor spaces to assist with the adoption of voluntary smoke-free policies.

Maintaining a smoke-free home is something many property owners and renters choose to do on their own. But for those who live in multi-unit buildings, that choice can be taken away. Even if someone is not smoking in your apartment, townhouse or condo, just one person smoking in an apartment building can pollute the air for everyone.

Studies show that 35 to 65 percent of the air in multi-unit housing is shared. Smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing improve indoor air quality in the residential units; benefit the health of residents, visitors and staff through the elimination of secondhand smoke; reduce the risk of residential fires; and lower overall maintenance costs.

Secondhand smoke can seep into your home through doorways, cracks in the walls, plumbing and ventilation systems. And though unknown to many, “thirdhand smoke”—the residual nicotine and other chemicals left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke—may also be lurking in your carpet, walls and furniture, and research shows that it can also be harmful to one’s health.

The Hult Center works to educate property managers and survey residents to gain insight into their different opinions and concerns. Then it can work with the property manager to create a policy that would best suit the needs of the residents. This past summer, for example, the Hult Center assisted Forest Park Apartments in creating and implementing a smoke-free policy for its pool, protecting all residents and guests from the dangers of secondhand smoke. iBi

If you are interested in taking steps toward adopting a smoke-free policy for your property, or for more information, contact Jessica Draper, Health Education Specialist for Illinois Tobacco-Free Communities, at jdraper@hulthealthy.org or by calling (309) 692-6650.

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