Make yours a smoke-free home

My previous two posts focused on the harmful effects of exposure to tobacco smoke pollution (ETS or SHS). It is clear that inhaling air contaminated by smoke from other people’s tobacco smoke can harm your health. As always, the risk is related to the cumulative dose and so the riskiest places are those in which we spend most time. The primary reason for legislation banning smoking in public places is actually to protect the people for whom that place is their workplace. While it could be argued that spending a couple of hours in a restaurant where someone else has smoked is unlikely to cause you a serious illness (notwithstanding the fact that some people can have asthma attacks or other illnesses triggered by relatively brief exposure), there is no doubt that a waitress spending forty or more hours in that environment every week will have a significant risk of contracting a serious illness caused by the smoke exposure. So the case for protecting workers in bars, restaurants, casinos and all other workplaces from tobacco smoke pollution is very clear and very strong.

Of course, other than the workplace, the other place we spend most time is our home. The home is also the place that children spend most of their time. Largely for these reasons, more and more households are deciding to be smoke-free as well. The proportion of households with smoke-free home rules in the United States ("No one is allowed to smoke anywhere inside your home,") increased significantly, from 43% during 1992--1993 to 72% in 2003. In 2003, 32% of households with a smoker living there had a smoke-free rule, as compared with 72% of households with no resident smokers.

So it is now the norm in the United States for a household to have a policy that no-one smokes indoors, and around a third of households with smokers were already implementing such a rule in 2003. The reasons are clear:
- tobacco smoke contains thousands of toxins.
- the concentration of some of these toxins in the air increases over time
- it is clear that exposure to tobacco smoke pollution increases the risk of serious illnesses
- smokers who live in smoke-free households are more likely to quit
- in addition, allowing smoking in the house increases the risk that children will be exposed and may become smokers themselves

So if you live in a household without any smokers, but without a smoke-free policy, its time to sit down with the family and agree on having one. and how it will be implemented on occasions when people may want to smoke (a houseparty, a home-repair worker, a visiting family-member who smokes etc).

Likewise, if you live with a smoker and currently allow smoking in the home, perhaps its time to make a change. Most smokers nowadays are aware of at least some of the effects of tobacco smoke pollution and therefore understand the rationale for having a smoke-free home and car. Most of the year it is no great hardship for the smoker to do their smoking outside. Sitting down with the people you live with and providing a heartfelt reason for making the household smoke-free may not meet with as much resistance as you might think.

Helpful information on smoke-free homes is available at:

Further information including smoke-free cars can be found at:

The latest data on the proportion of smoke-free homes in the United States can be found at:
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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.