Did You Know: African Americans in Multiunit Housing are Exposed to Higher Levels of Thirdhand Smoke

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Secondhand smoke (SHS) is a common indoor pollutant in multiunit housing (MUH). It is also the precursor of thirdhand smoke (THS), the toxic mixture of tobacco smoke residue that accumulates in indoor environments where tobacco has been used. A newly published study examined the levels, distribution, and factors associated with THS pollution in low-income MUH. Interviews were conducted 2016-2018 in a cross-sectional study of N=220 MUH homes in San Diego, California.

Findings included:

  • Nicotine was detected in all homes of nonsmokers with indoor smoking bans and smokers regardless of an indoor ban.
  • Approximately 10% of nonsmokers’ homes with smoking bans showed nicotine levels higher than the average level in homes of smokers without smoking bans from previous studies.
  • Housing for seniors, smoking bans on balconies, indoor tobacco use, difficult to reach surfaces, and self-reported African-American race/ethnicity were independently associated with higher THS levels.
  • Individual cases demonstrated that high levels of surface nicotine may persist in nonsmoker homes for years after tobacco use even in the presence of indoor smoking bans.

The researchers recommend that to achieve MUH free of tobacco smoke pollutants, attention must be given to identifying and remediating highly polluted units to implementing smoking policies that prevent new accumulation of THS.

Source: Matt et al. (2020). Persistent Tobacco Smoke Residue in Multiunit Housing: Legacy of Permissive Indoor Smoking Policies and Challenges in the Implementation of Smoking Bans. Preventive Medicine Reports, April (in press)

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