Quick Fixes

Since smoke travels through light fixtures, electrical outlets, piping, under doors and everywhere that air travels, the only way to completely eliminate secondhand smoke exposure in a multi-unit building is to make it 100% smokefree. The U.S. Surgeon General concluded that there is “no risk-free level of secondhand smoke,” and the only way to protect people from the dangers of secondhand smoke is to eliminate the smoke exposure.

However, there are some things that you can do to reduce the level of secondhand smoke exposure you are receiving in your home. Whether you attempt these solutions before you talk to your landlord, or while you and your landlord are working together to solve the problem, be sure to document the solutions that you have tried as well as your costs associated. That way, if you need to bring in a third party to solve the problem, you will have information to share about your efforts.

Below are some tips for temporary solutions to minimizing the amount of secondhand smoke you are exposed to in your building while working with your landlord and other residents on making your building smokefree:


  • Have your landlord improve the air filtration system by:
    • Cleaning, changing or installing better filters in the ventilation system.
    • Adding more fresh air intake into the ventilation system.
    • Restricting the amount of air exhausted through the ventilation system.
  • Speak with residents who smoke and request that they smoke outside. It they refuse, ask that they smoke only near open windows   and with enhanced air filters, fans, etc.
  •  Vents in kitchens and bathrooms may have vent check valves to stop odors from moving from one unit to another. These valves    may have to be repaired or replaced.

Maintenance and Repairs:

  • Have your landlord install door sweeps to keep out drifting smoke.
  • Problems with heating and air systems may allow smoke to travel to other units. 
  • These systems may have to be inspected and repaired.
  • Request that all cracks be filled or patched, including those around plumbing pipes, outlets and inside of cabinets on common      walls.
  • Request that the structure of your residence be checked. Sometimes structural weaknesses will allow for greater flow of secondhand smoke throughout the building.

Pads and Seals:

  • Smoke can travel through spaces around electrical outlets, power switches, baseboards, vents, and other small openings. Hardware stores often sell outlet seals and other ways to temporarily patch openings. 
  • Try blocking the openings with heavy padding. Tape, caulk, and latex foam may be used to fill some holes and seal around pipes. You may not be able to see or access all of the gaps in a unit or building, but filling some of the gaps may help reduce smoke in your unit.

Fans and Air Cleaners: 

  • Running a fan may help move the smoke outdoors or move outdoor air into your unit. The success of running a fan may depend on other factors like the direction of the wind outside or the direction of a draft inside. 
  • Air cleaners often mask the smoke odor but do not rid a unit of smoke itself. Be aware that the problem may seem better, but you have not necessarily stopped the source of the problem.

For suggestions on how to completely eliminate secondhand smoke from your unit, see Strategies for Residents and Renter Resources.