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Strategies and Steps to Eliminate Secondhand Smoke in Your Apartment

See Live Smoke Free's brochure Enjoying Smoke-Free Air in Your Apartment for more suggestions on eliminating secondhand smoke in your apartment.

Step One: Document the Problem

  • Determine the source of the secondhand smoke.
    • When do you smell smoke: all the time, only in the evening or morning?
    • Where is the smoke entering your unit?
    • Where do you think it is coming from?
    • Keep a log of when and where in your unit you smell smoke.
  • Make a list of the solutions you've tried already.
    • What steps have you taken? View our Temporary Fixes page for short-term solutions.
    • Fans, air fresheners, and other “smoke eaters” will only mask the problem, but trying some temporary solutions might help you illustrate the situation to your property manager.
  • Talk with your neighbors.
    • Are your neighbors experiencing the same problem? Will they talk to the property manager with you?
    • If you feel comfortable doing so, consider approaching your neighbor who smokes and politely voice your concerns. Focus on solutions, such as asking them to smoke outside and away from the building.
    • Keep track of all conversations and correspondence.
  • Keep track of all symptoms and illnesses.
    • Document any health problems you and your family are experiencing as a result of secondhand smoke in your apartment.
    • Health problems may include ear infections, sore throats, asthma attacks, and bronchitis.
    • Ask your health care provider to write a letter stating that the secondhand smoke causes your family to be sick.

Step Two: Talk to Your Building Management

  • Write a letter to your building manager or property owner.
    • Explain your problem and offer solutions.
    • If appropriate, include a copy of a letter from your doctor explaining your health problems.
    • Keep copies of any correspondence.
  • Follow up by approaching your property manager to discuss the situation.
    • Be positive, polite, and stick to the issue.
    • Ask your property manager and neighbors to work together to solve the problem instead of getting angry or arguing.
  • Provide information.
    • Give your property manager information on the dangers of being exposed to secondhand smoke.
    • Explain the benefits of having a smoke-free building.
  • Offer solutions.
    • Work with your property manager and offer to brainstorm or implement solutions.
    • Possible solutions include:
      1. Conduct a resident survey.
      2. Hold a residents' meeting.
      3. Relocate to a different building on the property or a different part of the building (either you or the person who is smoking).
      4. End your lease early so you can move to a smoke-free building.
  • Emphasize that building owners can legally make their buildings smoke free.
    • For HUD (Housing and Urban Development) units, you can share with your property manager the HUD notices that show HUD encourages smoke-free policies.
    • For HUD units, point out that changing “House Rules” may be easier to accomplish than making a formal lease change.
  • Suggest that smoke-free units can be established.
    • For current renters, a smoke-free policy can be signed during each renter's lease renewal.
    • New renters can start off smoke free.

Step Three: Work with an Outside Authority