Make your house smoke free

Australians are a house-proud lot. However, some residents don’t have a choice in making their living areas smoke free, due to smoke drift and allowances for smoking in common areas, particularly in multi-unit housing. ACOSH is aiming to make a difference in this area.

Many people choose not to smoke inside, or are not permitted to. However, smoking in places such as balconies and communal areas of apartment complexes still cause issues for other residents. This also extends to indoor areas, where smoke drift can infiltrate a residence through open doors and windows, cracks in walls, floors and ceilings, shared ventilation, gaps around plumbing, gaps under doors or through poor insulation.

Learn more about how to make a formal complaint about smoking in shared areas, as well as how to make your home smoke free, with the resources below.

A large number of people are speaking out about the negative impact smoke drift is having on them in their own home. If you need support to implement smoke free housing, please contact acosh@acosh.org or call 6365 5436. We also encourage you to sign up to our campaign to push for strata legislation reform.

Additional information

There is a small but growing body of research suggesting potential health harm from the infiltration of tobacco smoke into the homes of non-smokers. Using air quality monitoring, research has found that secondhand smoke spreads throughout multi-unit residential blocks, contaminating apartments where there is no active smoking.

People living in multi-unit housing were 19% more likely to report exposure to secondhand smoke inside their home compared with people living in houses.

In June 2013 the Health and Medicine section of The West Australian published the article ‘Neighbours fire up over smoking on the growing issue of smoke drift and the push for more smoke free housing. The issues around smoking in the home can be complex and can cause a strong reaction in people affected by the smoke, as well as the smoker.

The dangers from secondhand smoke exposure are clear. When non-smokers breathe in secondhand smoke they inhale the same toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that smokers inhale.

Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase a person’s risk of developing a wide range of serious diseases and illnesses. Vulnerable groups include infants, children, pregnant women, elderly people, people who are already suffering from health issues and people who are repeatedly exposed, even at low levels.

It is estimated that more than 600,000 people worldwide die every year as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke.

Smoke drift into homes can cause problems for owners, tenants, managers, staff and residents. It is particularly problematic for high-density, multi-unit housing such as apartments and retirement villages. Smoke drift can also cause significant problems in single dwelling homes.

The problem with smoking in the home is that there is no way to stop smoke drift, and there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Smoke drift from one unit in multi-unit housing can infiltrate throughout the entire building by way of balconies, patios, doors, windows, air vents, air conditioning systems, hallways, stairwells, elevators, and plumbing and electrical systems.

Even when a smoker is situated some distance from the building, smoke can easily drift into another unit. The only way to protect non-smoking residents from secondhand smoke exposure is to implement a smoke free policy for the whole premises.

Advocating for supportive legislation in WA

The WA Government has set strata reform as a key priority and Landgate has been tasked to deliver reforms to the Strata Titles Act 1985 (WA) . The proposed reforms aim to ensure WA has a modern Strata Titles Act to better meet the state’s needs for future growth.

ACOSH, Cancer Council WA, and the Heart Foundation WA have called on the WA Government and Landgate to address the issue of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure on strata titled property through a joint submission offered to Landgate in December 2014.

Changing the Strata Titles Act 1985 to specify that tobacco smoke is a nuisance which unreasonably interferes with the use and enjoyment of the property by others, provides strong authority for a strata council to enact smoke free areas and comprehensive smoke free properties and provides all owners and residents with clear direction on this issue.

If you are exposed to secondhand smoke at your property and would like to help advocate for the amendments to the Strata Titles Act 1985 (WA), please contact acosh@acosh.org or call 6365 5436.