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Puffing in public housing poses serious health risks to tenants
Date:6/17/2010

is no safe level of exposure. Studies have shown that even brief exposures to tobacco smoke can adversely affect nonsmokers, especially children, who experience increased rates and severity of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, as well as higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

The report details how smoking in a single unit within a multiunit residential building puts other residents of the building at risk. Tobacco smoke can move along air ducts, through cracks in the walls and floors, through elevator shafts, and along plumbing and electrical lines to affect units on other floors. Mitigation measures like fans and air filters are not effective in preventing exposure. High levels of tobacco toxins can persist in the indoor environment long after the period of active smoking a phenomenon known as third-hand smoke. Tobacco toxins from smoke are deposited on indoor surfaces and reemitted in the air over a period of days to years, and are found on rugs, furniture, clothing, and floors all surfaces that children crawl and play on.

While it is clear that second- and third-hand smoke are inimical to the health of nonsmokers in multiple housing units, the authors note, there are challenges facing public housing authorities, landlords and nonsmokers. Any addiction is difficult to overcome and a ban would put pressure on tenants addicted to nicotine, and could raise concern over how to deal with tenants who continued to smoke inside their building.

"Any no-smoking policies within PHAs would need to be accompanied by clear instructions on how residents can access evidence-based smoking-cessation resources," says coauthor Mark Gottlieb, JD, executive director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law. Currently most state Medicaid programs do not cover comprehensive tobacco-dependence treatments, a situation that may change with an increased emphasis on tobacco control in healthcare reform.
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Contact: Valerie Wencis
vwencis@partners.org
617-726-0274
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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