You may not be a smoker, but if you live in an apartment or condo your neighbor’s cigarette smoke may be infiltrating your abode. This secondhand smoke is well-documented health hazard. Here are some steps you can take to avoid this problem.
Making modifications to your home
Physical modifications of your living space can help alleviate a secondhand smoke problem. If you rent, you may need to get approval from your landlord to modify your apartment. If you own, you can likely make these changes without seeking approval.
Inspect your home to find where secondhand smoke seeps in. If you smell smoke when your neighbor is on his patio or balcony, you likely have leaky seals around windows and doors. Inspect the caulking around window frames and the weather stripping around the sash. Replace if they are decayed. Do the same with the weather stripping around exterior doors, and install a door sweep strip at the bottom.
If you notice secondhand smoke in your apartment when your neighbor is inside his, the smoke is traveling through the walls via access points in both dwellings. Smoke can enter your apartment through loosely attached HVAC vent covers, plumbing passageways, electric sockets and/or a clothes dryer vent.
To block access points, place electrical outlet sealers behind the wall plates. These are normally used to prevent air loss through outlets, but they can also limit smoke infiltration. Remove air duct vent covers and seal any gaps around the ducting mount where it attaches to the Sheetrock. Examine all places where plumbing comes through a wall and caulk any gaps. Do the same around the clothes dryer duct.
If you still have some seepage of secondhand smoke, try running your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room ventilation fans when it’s happening. You can also use a portable home air purifier.
Talk to the neighbor about secondhand smoke
You may need to talk to your neighbor if these measures aren’t effective. This will be easier if you have already met and gotten to know each other, which shows how being a good neighbor pays benefits later if you must resolve a conflict. That first meeting is more awkward when it’s about a problem.
Be friendly and relaxed. Explain to your neighbor how his secondhand smoke is drifting into your home. Be clear that you’re not trying to control his behavior, merely asking for his help in coming up with a solution. Tell him of modifications you have made and ask him to do the same in his place to limit the seepage.
In the end, unless the smoker is violating rules, you cannot force him to change, but you can do your best to limit your exposure.
Do you own or rent?
If you’d like to get higher-ups involved, your next action depends on whether you rent or own. Check your lease if you’re a renter to see if it prohibits smoking within the apartment or condo units or even common areas. Owners should look over their homeowners association (HOA) rules for prohibitions on smoking within units or common areas. Because secondhand smoke is widely considered a nuisance to other residents, such rules are increasingly common. Even many city and county governments have laws prohibiting smoking within units of multifamily housing.
If the rules at one of these levels prohibit smoking, call your landlord or an HOA board member and tell them the situation. Follow up with a letter documenting the problem. Once the concern is in the hands of an authority, you have given them the responsibility to resolve it.
Keep in mind that these rules are meant to address significant, ongoing secondhand smoke that cannot be curtailed with reasonable measures, not an occasional whiff of smoke.