woman smoking

How to Deal with Neighbors Who Smoke

Many states protect their residents and visitors from second-hand smoke in public places. If you go to a restaurant, bar, hotel, concert hall, museum or shopping mall, you can expect clean air.

But what about apartment buildings? Living units are not covered under the law, but indoor common areas are. An indoor laundry area or gym would always be smoke-free, but you could experience second-hand smoke from other units. This means you might have to deal with neighbors who smoke.

Is smoking allowed in apartment communities?

Read your lease agreement carefully for information that may protect you from second-hand smoke. Owners of apartment complexes and condominiums are allowed to adopt policies that make their buildings smoke-free, including individual living units.

However, your lease may also allow for smoking in areas on the campus. It’s not unusual to find apartments that allow smoking in apartment buildings or outdoor common areas.

Dealing with neighbors who smoke

Second-hand smoke has few boundaries and could enter your apartment through doorways, lighting fixtures and electrical outlets. Confronting someone is never appealing, but it could be the easiest solution.

1. Communicate with your neighbors who smoke

It may be as simple as asking your neighbor to smoke outdoors. This would limit smoke entering your apartment through shared walls. In outdoor spaces, second-hand smoke is less likely to have an effect on you as it’s less dense in the air.

If your apartment complex has a policy against smoking and you’re experiencing second-hand smoke entering your unit, talk to the managers of the property. They should be able to enforce the policy without confrontation between you and your neighbor. If your lease agreement doesn’t address smoking, there are no legal actions you can take against someone smoking in your complex.

Not all smokers are going to be receptive to your requests. Many feel strongly about their right to smoke. They may also be frustrated by existing smoking bans or restrictions in their community. If your neighbor refuses to compromise, and your apartment complex doesn’t limit smoking indoors, you can try a few different things within your own unit.

2. Make adjustments to your apartment

If you can’t or don’t want to move, there are a few things you can do to your own apartment to lessen the effects of smoking neighbors. To truly stop smoke from entering your apartment, you would need to seal all entry points. This includes ventilation, doors, windows, electrical outlets and lighting fixtures. Make sure that you’re not making any changes that break the terms of your lease.

There are also a few products you can purchase to circulate air better in your unit. Add a box fan or make use of ceiling fans to keep air moving. You can also consider an air purifier, but it will not remove all smoke. If your neighbor is willing to use it, an air purifier will actually do more in their apartment. You could consider purchasing it or splitting the cost. However, it will never truly eliminate smoke in the air.

woman smoking

Dealing with neighbors who smoke in outdoor common areas

Living in an apartment often means that you’ll share outdoor areas with others. This may include walking trails, picnic areas and other recreational spots. In most cases, your neighbors will be able to utilize outdoor spaces to smoke at their leisure. Some apartment complexes may have designated smoking areas, but that’s not required.

If you’re bothered by an individual who is smoking in a shared outdoor area, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the issue. The easiest option may be to move away from the smoke. Move your activity to a different table or walk in a different direction to avoid coming into contact with second-hand smoke.

Don’t be afraid to politely ask someone to relocate or not smoke near you or your children. This is not an unrealistic request but no one is obligated to move. Being polite is key here, as most people are not receptive to complaints about their lifestyle. Here are a few phrases that may help you open a conversation about someone smoking near you:

  • “Excuse me, but I really try to avoid second-hand smoke. Would you mind putting that cigarette out?”
  • “My child has asthma triggered by second-hand smoke. Would you mind not smoking right now? We’d appreciate it.”
  • “Do you mind smoking where I won’t be affected by your smoke? Thank you so much for understanding.”

If you’re a smoker

For those who smoke and want to maintain peace with neighbors, there are a few things you can do.

Keep your apartment clean

Every surface that nicotine comes in contact with is affected by second-hand smoke. Clean flat surfaces, like tables and countertops, twice a week. Vacuum often and deep-cleaning your carpets or rugs. You can also wash your walls occasionally with a mild detergent.

Purify your air

Running ceiling fans or installing a window fan will help to circulate air. HEPA filters in heating ducts prevent smoke from exiting your apartment. Check your lease agreement to ensure you don’t make any prohibited adjustments to your apartment. Opening a window or door will also give the smoke somewhere else to go and let in some fresh air.

Go outside

Smoking outdoors is another solution. Your lease will explain regulations about smoking indoors or designated outdoor smoking areas at your apartment complex if there are any limitations. Be courteous about areas that are typically more populated, like basketball or tennis courts.

Stay within your rights

Everyone has a right to breathe clean air but smokers retain the right to smoke in areas where it’s not prohibited. Be courteous to those around you, whether you’re a smoker or not.

When searching for apartments for rent, check your lease carefully for information about smoking in units or adjustments you could make to your own unit to alleviate second-hand smoke. Use the strategies mentioned above to make sharing common spaces comfortable and safe for all residents.


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