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Multi-Unit Housing

Approximately 11 million Californians live in apartments or other multi–unit housing, putting them at risk for exposure to toxic sec­ondhand smoke from neighboring units and outdoor areas. In Imperial County there are over 30 Market Rate multi-unit housing (MUH) structures. Unlike single dwelling homes, residents in MUH are at a higher risk for involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS), which drifts from neighboring units, balconies, and outdoor areas. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, those with asthma, low-income families, Latinos, African Americans, migrants, and the disabled are especially vulnerable to suffering the negative health effects from SHS and less likely to have housing alternatives.

An estimated 49,000 Americans die each year as a direct result of secondhand smoke exposure.

Imperial County is one of 12 CA4Health funded counties in California working to protect residents through approaches that create smoke-free environments where people live and increase the avail­ability of smoke-free housing for residents regardless of their socioeconomic status.

No one should be forced to come home to toxic secondhand smoke. By implementing proven smoke-free housing strategies, property owners protect their assets and help improve the personal health of their employees and tenants living conditions by stopping the drifting of secondhand smoke and preventing diseases such as asthma, allergies, eye irritation, respiratory tract infections and cancer in individuals.

  • Secondhand smoke seeps under doorways and through cracks in walls and floors. It drifts from one unit to another through shared airspaces and ventilation systems, electrical outlets, plumbing fixtures, and from outdoor balconies, patios and common areas.
  • Real-time air quality testing conducted in actual Northern and Southern California apartments by Stanford University’s Dr. Neil Klepeis proved that harmful levels of secondhand do indeed drift from smoking into nonsmoking units at potentially dangerous levels.

There is no longer any question about the harmful, and potentially fatal, effects of secondhand smoke.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies secondhand smoke as a Class A carcinogen, placing it in the most dangerous category with radon, benzene, and asbestos.
  • According to the 2006 Surgeon General’s report, nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25-30% and their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30%.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, secondhand smoke causes an estimated 46,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States among nonsmokers.
  • Children, whose young lungs are still developing, are especially at risk. Secondhand smoke can trigger asthma attacks in children and can increase the severity and frequency of asthma attacks. A severe asthma attack can put a child's life in danger.
  • The U.S. Fire Administration’s 2006-2010 National Fire Incident Report showed that smoking continues to be the single leading cause (24%) of civilian home fire deaths.

Multi-unit housing residents in rural California communities are at even greater risk than their urban neighbors.

  • The 2008 California Tobacco Survey showed the highest smoking rates in the state were in rural communities, where rates range between 16% and 21% vs. the statewide rate of 13.1%. That means more smoking at home and more families being exposed to toxic secondhand smoke.

Smoke-free housing makes good business sense.

  • The incremental costs (cleaning, repairs, painting, carpets and drapes, fumigation, etc.) to property owners of turning over units previously occupied by smokers are significant and can be as high as $8,000 per unit.

Local Efforts:

As of January 1, 2014 the following 5 market-rate multi-unit housing owners and public housing entities have adopted a 100% smoke-free housing policy:

  • Imperial Valley Housing Authority-Cedar Apartments (Adopted on March 1, 2013) - 20 units
  • Bailon Management (Adopted on May 31st , 2013) - 54 units
  • Martha’s Apartment (Adopted on August 15th, 2013) - 12 units
  • Joe Acuña Management (Adopted on August 28th, 2013) - 44 units - 3 rental homes
  • Andrade Apartments (Adopted on September 19th, 2013) -36 units

For more information about smoke-free multi-unit housing call (442) 265-1377 or email