Secondhand smoke transfer in multiunit housing

Nicotine Tob Res. 2010 Nov;12(11):1133-41. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntq162. Epub 2010 Oct 1.


Introduction: The home can represent a significant source of secondhand smoke (SHS), especially for individuals who live in close proximity to one another in multiunit housing (MUH). The objective of this study was to quantify real-time SHS transfer between smoke-permitted and smoke-free living units within the same MUH structure.

Methods: Air monitors were used to assess PM₂.₅, an environmental marker for SHS, in 14 smoke-free living units and 16 smoke-permitted units within 11 MUH buildings in the Buffalo, New York, area between July 2008 and August 2009. Air monitors were operated concurrently in both smoke-permitted and smoke-free units within each building. When feasible, additional monitors were stationed in shared hallways and on outdoor patios. Participants completed logs to document activities that could affect air quality.

Results: Evidence of SHS transfer from smoke-permitted units was detected in 2 of the 14 smoke-free units and 6 of the 8 hallways. Real-time PM₂.₅ plots and participant logs suggest that SHS transfer is a function of many determinants, including ventilation and proximity between units. Following stratification by time of day, median PM₂.₅ levels were greatest between 4:00 PM and 11:59 PM but varied by location: 10.2 μg/m³ in smoke-free units, 18.9 μg/m³ in hallways, and 29.4 μg/m³ in smoke-permitted units.

Conclusions: This study documents SHS incursions from smoke-permitted units into smoke-free units and adjacent hallways within the same building. Since many factors appear to impact the amount of SHS transfer between these areas, the implementation of a smoke-free building policy represents the most effective way to ensure that residents of MUH units are not exposed to SHS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis*
  • Inhalation Exposure / prevention & control
  • New York
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control


  • Air Pollutants
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution