Search Alaska's Smoke-Free Housing Database

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Secondhand Smoke and Aerosol at Home

A lot of our posts recently have focused more on the impacts of tobacco use has on the person using it with a little bit about secondhand exposure. This one is going to focus primarily on secondhand exposure.

Source: UNDO (Apartment – English – YouTube)

Why Smoke and Aerosol free Multiunit Housing Matters?1,2,3,4

Help Improve Indoor Air Quality

  • Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors
  • People who are most susceptible to pollutants, such as children, elderly, and those with lung disease, tend to spend more time indoors
  • Concentration of some pollutants are 2-5x more concentrated in indoor environments compared to outdoors
  • About 65% of the air is shared between units in multiunit housing
  • About 80 million people live in multiunit housing.
  • There was over 31.4 million occupied multiunit housing units in 2018. This is up from over 27.6 million occupied units in 2007.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure at Home

  • About 28 million multiunit housing residents are exposed to secondhand smoke from somewhere else in the building.
    • This is the most recent estimate. But it is from before marijuana was legalized in most states and before e-cigarettes really became popular.
  • The home is the main place where children are exposed to secondhand smoke
  • No ventilation, air condition, or heating system can eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke or aerosol. These are avenues for the smoke to spread at home.

Source: CDC’s Tips from a Former Smoker, Nathan – doesn’t smoke, but exposed to secondhand smoke at work (Nathan M.’s Story | Real Stories | Tips From Former Smokers | CDC)

Health Impacts of Secondhand Smoke and Aerosol5

Secondhand Aerosol

All of the impacts that e-cigarettes and secondhand aerosol are still being studied. This is some of what’s been reported about secondhand aerosol exposure so far.

  • The following have been found or detected at some level in secondhand aerosol:
    • Nicotine
    • Propylene glycol
    • Diethylene glycol (poisonous organic compound)
    • Glycerol
    • Flavorings
    • Acetone
    • Formaldehyde
    • Acetaldehyde
    • Propanal
    • Diacetin
    • Triacitine
    • Ultrafine particles
    • Toxins that are known to cause cancer
  • Aerosol contains a higher concentration of ultrafine particles than cigarette smoke
  • Exposure to these elements have been linked to:
    • Exacerbation of respiratory ailments, like asthma
    • Impair lung function
    • Constriction of arteries, which can lead to a heart attack
    • Cause eye, throat, and airway irritation
    • Lead to children developing asthma
    • Cause respiratory distress and disease

Secondhand Marijuana Smoke6,7

Research is still being conducted on the impacts of marijuana and secondhand marijuana has on people. This is some of what is currently known.

  • Secondhand marijuana smoke contains:
    • Acetaldehyde
    • Ammonia arsenic
    • Benzene
    • Cadmium
    • Chromium
    • Formaldehyde
    • Hydrogen cyanide
    • Isoprene
    • Lead
    • Mercury
    • Nickel
    • Quinoline
    • THC
    • Fine particulate matter
  • Particulate matter (PM) 2.5 from secondhand marijuana smoke has been found to be about 3-4.4 x higher than that from secondhand cigarette smoke.
  • High levels of PM 2.5 have been observed at a dispensary that allowed vaping, dabbing, and vaporizing marijuana, but did not allow smoking it.
  • Fine particulate matter can exacerbate health problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and COPD
  • PM 2.5 has been linked to:
    • Premature death in people with heart and lung disease
    • Nonfatal heart attacks
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Aggravated asthma
    • Decreased lung function
    • Increased respiratory symptoms, like airway irritation, coughing, and difficulty breathing
  • Other chemicals in secondhand marijuana smoke have been linked to:
    • Cancer
    • Impairment of blood vessel function
    • Potentially cause issues with other cardiovascular conditions, like blocked arteries, stroke, and heart attacks

Secondhand Cigarette Smoke8

Secondhand cigarette smoke can cause:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung cancer
  • Adverse reproductive health effects in women
  • Premature death

Infants and Children

  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Low birth weight
  • Respiratory infections
  • Ear infections
  • Asthma attacks

Source: CDC’s Tips From a Former Smoker, Jessica – doesn’t smoke, talks about secondhand smoke’s impact on her son (Jessica S.’s Story | Real Stories | Tips From Former Smokers | CDC)

I Want to Quit

I Want to Help Someone Quit

Healthcare professionals

  • Ask, Advise, Refer to Quit Don’t Switch ( free, one-hour, on-demand course that touches on tools and strategies for conducting an effective brief tobacco intervention with those who use tobacco. This course is accredited for 1 hour of Continuing Medical Education (CME) by Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services (RMCHCS) and 1 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) by the American Association of Respiratory Care.
  • ACT to Address Youth Cessation ( free, one-hour, on-demand course that touches on ways to provide a brief intervention for teens who use tobacco. School personnel and community members in youth/adolescent supportive roles are welcome to take this as well.

Anyone Who Wants to Help

Make Your Home Smokefree

The American Lung Association in Alaska can help those affiliated with multiunit housing with concerns around smoking and secondhand smoke. Whether you’re a resident or a landlord, contact us at SmokefreeHousingAK@Lung.Org for free assistance.

Alaska Smokefree Workplace Law

Alaska has a Smokefree Workplace Law to help protect people from secondhand smoke and aerosol exposure. It covers products that can be smoked and vaped, including marijuana, e-cigarettes, and cigarettes. To learn more about it, visit: Frequently Asked Questions | Alaska’s Smokefree Workplace Law.


  1. Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
  2. Housing Supply Chartbook (
  3. Going Smokefree Matters: Multiunit Housing | Smoking and Tobacco Use | CDC
  4. pd_environmental-tobacco-smoke-2020-07-1.pdf (
  5. Electronic Smoking Devices and Secondhand Aerosol – American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation |
  6. Secondhand Marijuana Smoke Fact Sheet – American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation |
  7. Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter (PM) | US EPA
  8. Health Problems Caused by Secondhand Smoke (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Alaska Smoke-Free Housing
A Buzzworthy Site