Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Tobacco and Multi-Unit Housing


By Andrew Forbes

By now most individuals are well aware of the negative health effects caused by tobacco products, and in most states smoking inside public places has been banned by state law. One area that has been omitted from many of these laws is the topic of multi-unit housing. The “right” to smoke in one’s own home has been a topic of heated debate between anti-tobacco advocates and champions of individual liberties. However, for smokers who live in apartment complexes and duplexes it’s not just their own health they’re affecting.

In addition to the increased risk of fire due to combustible tobacco (the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the U.S.) most multi-unit housing complexes share ventilation systems between the different units, this results in 44-46 percent of non-smoking residents being exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke affects adults in many similar ways that firsthand smoke does (heart disease, respiratory complications, and lung cancer). For a developing child the repercussions can be even more dramatic. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, asthma, and ear infections. Even a low-level of tobacco exposure has been associated with decreased math and reading scores and higher rates of behavioral problems.

Over the past two decades we have made significant progress protecting nonsmokers from the detrimental health effects of choices they did not make for themselves. Bars, restaurants and stores are all smoke free in Illinois and Iowa, but multi-unit housing remains one of the last great mountains to climb. Approximately 40 million Americans live in multi-unit housing, which accounts for 31.5 percent of all housing units in the United States. The Tobacco Free Quad Cities (TFQC) coalition strives to fight to protect the general public against the dangers of secondhand smoke and the right to a healthy lifestyle for all citizens.

If you are interested in more information on smoke free multi-unit housing or the Tobacco Free Quad Cities coalition please contact Andrew Forbes (Rock Island County) at 309-558-2940  or Kim Mills (Scott County) at 563-326-8618