More Smoke-Free Housing: The Next Natural Step in Protecting Health of New Yorkers

In the past year, the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City has been receiving more calls on secondhand smoke in residential buildings than on any other tobacco control issue. The move towards more smoke-free housing options in NYC is a natural next step to protect the health of our families.  One young mother, Aja, in Brooklyn shared her story with us:

Secondhand smoke filtering into their apartment was the last thing that soon-to-be mother Aja and husband Paul Thorburn thought about when they moved into their new home in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, a year ago.  Aja took a moment to share her story with the Coalition’s Brooklyn Smoke-Free Partnership:

“I was eight months pregnant when my husband and I moved into our apartment, unaware that a chain smoker lived directly below.  I recalled smelling a hint of smoke when we first visited the unit, but was reassured by the realtor that it was probably one of the workmen doing repairs.  After moving in, we started to smell strong cigarette smoke.  The doorman informed us that the neighbor below us was a smoker, and the smoke has been the subject of many complaints.”

What did you do?

“I spoke with the neighbor and our management company.  I even provided literature to our building on smoke-free housing, but nothing seemed to work.  Our building purchased an air purifier for us; they also sent workers to caulk holes and vents.  This helped somewhat, but at times, we still smelled the strong cigarette smoke.”

How did the smoke affect you?

“The smoke scent was unbearable.  My husband and I coughed and suffered from headaches, itchy eyes and sinus issues–before this, I never had allergy problems.”

What do you think the solution is?

“If we knew there was a smoker below us, we would have never taken the apartment.  They should make more smoke-free buildings and have smokers go outside to smoke, especially with all the literature on the effects of secondhand smoke available today.” 

Fortunately, for the Thorburns, the smoking neighbor moved out, and the couple has not had to deal with secondhand smoke anymore.  Since their building does not have a smoke-free policy, the Thorburns still worry that another smoking neighbor may move in.  Special thanks to Aja and her family for sharing their story with us.

If you have a personal story about dealing with secondhand smoke in your home you would like to share with us, please fill out our online testimonial form here.  If you would like information on smoke-free housing for tenants or landlords, click here.