Up in Smoke: How Smoking Impacts Your Community’s Health

Written by Manhattan Community Engagement Manager, Stefanie Mercado Altman.

We have all seen the lone person smoking on the sidewalk outside their apartment building. Seemingly caught in the drifting movements of their thoughts as wafts of smoke from a lit cigarette hit pedestrians passing by and creep in apartment windows. At this time of year, some people may or may not have fallen off their new year’s resolution to stop smoking. And as February stands as a very cold month in New York City (NYC), we see less and less people smoking voluntarily outside their apartment buildings.

Smoking still accounts for the leading cause of preventable death in NYC and across the country. When someone is smoking in their apartment, not only is smoking impacting the health of the smoker directly but also of those living in neighboring units in a multiunit dwelling building.

It is always important to remind ourselves what the direct and indirect health impacts of smoking and secondhand smoke are. Smoking causes numerous kinds of cancer to form as well as exacerbates any known chronic respiratory conditions that smoker or a neighbor may have, like COPD, asthma, and emphysema. It is also important to know that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, even brief exposures can cause immediate harm.

For neighbors, health problems caused by secondhand smoke in adults who do not smoke include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer as well as adverse reproductive health effects in people who are trying to get pregnant (CDC). Secondhand smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children. In a multiunit dwelling building, there have been tests shown that 65% of air in a building is shared between units—the way that you may be able to smell what your neighbor is cooking for dinner without being in their apartment, secondhand smoke travels in the same fashion through gaps in the walls, mechanical chases, ventilation systems, and underneath doors and through open windows.

If you are looking to quit smoking, it is never too late to begin your quit journey. You can call the NYS Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS or visit their website. If you are a landlord or a board member looking to make your building a smoke-free building, we provide free technical assistance and resources to assist buildings in developing and implementing a smoke-free housing policy.

Please visit the “Our Teams” tab of this website to see who’s your borough Community Engagement Manager and learn more!


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