Neighbors' Cigarette Smoke

Archived Q&A and Reviews



What to do about smoking neighbors in apts?

May 2013

I live in a Berkeley apartment and my neighbors beside me and below me smoke. When it's hot, I have to open the windows, but when I do, the smoke comes in. I have severe allergies and am wondering if a hepa filter would be of great help? Does anyone out there have experience with this type of thing? I really wish we could put in place a non-smoking ordinance in Berkeley so that smoking in apartments or near them would be eliminated! I don't think this is likely to happen, though! surrounded by smoke

I would recommend filling your house with house plants, and getting two or three hepa filter air cleaners. House plants help to clear the air of toxins, and the hepa filters can't hurt. Don't get the filterless ones that add ozone to your air, though. Also, research dietary changes to help your allergies. Good luck

There is a possibility that smoking could be banned in all shared housing. It is now legal for landlords to ban smoking, except in Berkeley.

The rent board wants to protect tenants who have been renting the same apartment for a long time.

Personally, I think people who have rent controlled apartments with low rents have already enjoyed sufficient benefit from their apartments and should not be allowed to annoy or endanger the health of others.

I agree with Carol Denny; all indoor smoking should be banned in shared housing in Berkeley.

Let your opinion be known! Contact the Rent Board!

Neighbors chain-smoking outside our windows

Feb 2013

Our neighbors are chain smokers. Since they rent, they are not allowed to smoke inside the house. They smoke outdoors and with our houses so close together, the smoke easily makes its way to our house. We have to keep our windows closed all the time and we go inside when they smoke. We rarely use our backyard anymore. Two of us have asthma and my daughter says she feels like a prisoner. We were hoping to find a product that they can use when they smoke that will suck in the smoke. Using a fan between houses isn't really practical, so we're hoping to find a product that can suck in the second hand smoke or some other strategy. Our neighbors are nice folks, but have this habit that has impacted our lives just too much. They have no plans on quitting. Any ideas are welcome. Thanks.

I understand your issues with smoking neighbors. I live in an East Bay condo & have been dealing with smoking neighbors for the past 1 1/2 years. My advice is to contact the homeowner directly, since the renters won't stop smoking. There is no constitutional right to smoke. Furthermore, since you have asthma, you are protected by California & federal disability laws, which have a process to request ''reasonable accommodation'' to ensure people with disabilities have equal opportunity to access & enjoy their homes. Have your doctor write a strongly worded letter stating the secondhand smoke is adversely affecting your health. Document the days/times the neighbors smoke. Show the letter & documentation to the homeowner. This may result in disciplinary action taken against the renters, or they may be evicted & non-smoking tenants may replace them. Be prepared for your relationship with your neighbors to possibly deteriorate. You can find more information at, and the California Dept. of Public Health. Good luck! been there & still battling

New smoking neighbor

July 2012

We live in a townhouse development, and last week our new next-door neighbor moved in. We were friendly, but have not seen her much. However we smell her smoking, even when she smokes on her patio which is right next to ours. And she has two little dogs that bark. We have one dog who usually doesn't bark, but when they start, he may reply. This morning the neighbor dogs started barking at 6:30am, but our little guy kept his cool. Any suggestion how to approach this. They may be neighbors for a long time. non-smoking neighbor

Regarding problem with neighbors who smoke & have barking dogs, I would suggest that you talk to them first. Introduce yourself, then explain about smoke drifting into your home & dogs barking. If that doesn't work, you may want to contact your townhome's management company. I had a similar problem with smoking neighbors & finally resolved it with repeated complaints to management company, who sent several letters to the smokers. You might also contact Serena Chen of American Lung Association in Oakland. Her number is 510-638-5864 & she knows laws about 2nd hand smoke, & advocates for smoke- free environments. And maybe they can keep their dogs inside or muzzled for the barking issue. hope this helps you

ChangeLab Solutions has some good resources on their website for folks trying to limit secondhand smoke exposure at home, including some fact sheets specifically for condo dwellers. See Clean Air Fan

Neighbors' second hand smoke

June 2012

I own a condo in Pinole & 2 of my neighbors smoke (1 is a renter). My daughter has asthma & smoke is aggravating her health problems. I have talked to renter, owner & homeowners association to complain about secondhand smoke entering my unit through the air vents. Renter doesn't care, owner can't force renter to do anything, homeowners association said they need to confer with their lawyer & I can take tenants to small claims court if I want to. There's a no smoking ordinance in Pinole but I don't know how to take this further to get the people to stop smoking on their patios & in their units. Any advice? just want fresh air

I went through a similar situation with a smoking neighbor and unresponsive landlord . I contacted Serena Chen of the American Lung Association in Oakland. She is familiar with the law about second hand smoke, is very helpful and a fierce advocate for a smoke-free environment. Been there.

I seriously doubt that clouds and clouds of secondhand smoke are entering your home. My advice to you would be to mind your own business, or move. You can't tell others what they can and can't do in their homes. Home is the one place nanny state government hasn't entirely invaded, and for the most part we can still do what we like there. I'd like to keep it that way. Anon

Of course second hand smoke is getting into your condo. Maybe not ''clouds'' of it as another poster (a smoker I'm sure) said, but it's there. I do not think you should move unless of course it become detrimental your child health. I also live in a condo. What people don't understand is that, while you should not be told what you can and can't do in your own home, condo living is a little different. You are sharing the building with the other owners so while your unit is your home, the building belongs to everyone. If someones actions are causing health issues for another - they should stop. Maybe it's not legally required, but it's the right thing to do. Get that renter out however you can. Take the advice of the other poster and get help. Felicia

I have to agree with another poster in that your neighbor has a right to smoke as much as you have a right not to. I too seriously doubt dilute second hand smoke entering your unit has any ill affects other than odor. Nevertheless, there is a solution-at least during warm weather. First off you can block off any intake air duct with plastic and duct tape. Open a window elsewhere to get fresh air in. An additional step is to place your unit in ''positive pressure'' by using a fan on the ''odor free'' side of your unit (a window or cracked door with security lock) and blow fresh air into your unit from outside. This should expel air from the intake picking up the neighbor's smoke. You could also provide a month's supply of nicotine patches to the neighbors as a friendly gesture. anon

I actually take secondhand smoke complaints for a living and I have a few pieces of info that may be helpful. First, call your County Health Department and/or the American Lung Association. They can tell you if there are any laws in place to protect you locally or let you know if there is a campaign going on in your city to strengthen protections. Tell your city council that you are having a problem. They have the power to change the law if there isn't one and can enforce the law if there is one.

Secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing can make people REALLY sick and result in long term health effects. I've seen it. It doesn't just ''dissipate''. Concerns about the rights of the smoker, as some people have cited in this thread, are very common. Smokers are not a protected class of people under the constitution or any other law in the U.S. The problem isn't the smoker, it's the smoke, which travels and is proven to cause a variety of health issues. Smokers can live anywhere (they are not discriminated against) but they can't smoke in non-smoking areas, which in some places includes individual units. People deal with it.

My analogy for people concerned about the govt telling people what they can and can't do in their own house is this: you can get as hammered as you want in your own house. You can even drink yourself to death in your own house if you want to. But if that behavior affects other people (you get really noisy, you get violent, you get behind the wheel of a car), then the government has the authority to step in and make you stop the behavior that is having an impact on others. Same thing with secondhand smoke. It's a public health issue, and a real one at that. Anonymous

Second Hand Smoke in Condominium

Nov 2009

I live in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes. Next door to me, for the past 30 years lives a single woman who supports herself mostly by renting out rooms, but, as she is fairly unstable, tenants tend to leave after short stays. The current tenant is a man living on disability, in his 50s, whose ladyfriend spends most of her time in the house too, although she is not on the lease. She is the problem.

She chain-smokes all day and most of the night out on the front porch, which is directly beneath our bedroom window. Our house reeks of cigarette smoke. Worse than that, she has a condition that sounds like advanced emphesema, and during the nights, while she sleeps out on the porch, she chokes, coughs and wheezes helplessly for hours on end. We cannot sleep, of course, and our offers of help have been rejected. Anyhow, there is little help we can realistically offer, because her condition is so far gone.

So we have a sick and addicted women living, day and night, right outside our windows, who is not even legally supposed to be there. The obvious suggestion, which is to approach the landlady, won't really work as she herself is pretty disfunctional. Any ideas of how to approach this: legally? compassionately? effectively? Thanks for any suggestions you have to offer. Worried Neighboor

I guess it depends on how much it means to you.. One idea would be to offer to buy her Nicarette gum. This can be a pricey thing to do, but if she agreed to use it while next door, she'd save some money and you'd avoid some smoke in the window. She'd probably still cough ( more so than usual for the first week or two because the mechanism the lungs use to clean themselves of gunk would be coming back on-line after chronically being suppressed by the cigarettes). You'd have to tell her to not chew it all at once, but to chew each piece until she feels a tingle and then tuck it in her cheek for a few minutes, then repeat. You'd do her health a HUGE favor. She might not be motivated to use the gum to cut back( taper) but many use Nicarette longterm.I've seen very psychiatrically impaired people benefit from it. Good luck! JM

Second Hand Smoke in Condominium

Aug 2008

Any advice on how to deal with second hand smoke in a condo or apartment setting? I am expecting my first child soon. My neighbor smokes like a chimney and often it comes through one of the shared walls in my condo. This happens at least once a day. I have approached the neighbor twice, have talked to my HOA, and both have been extremely uncooperative. I took steps to seal open vents and outlets, and bought two very high-end air filters. However, I have determined that the smoke is actually seeping through the wall.

I have managed to avoid the smoke as much as possible by spending time in other rooms where the smoke does not enter, but I still smell it and am concerned about the health of my family and new baby. Are there any contractors anyone can recommend that can fix the obvious structural defect in the shared wall? Also has anyone managed to have a healthy child in an apt/condo where second hand smoke was an issue? Moving is not an option at this time. Thank you for any direction you can provide. Non-smoker but affected by smoke anyway

What a bummer...! I've lived in several places over the years where smoke has seeped into my home from another (from below or next door) through a shared wall or floor/ceiling. I cannot give you any specific advice on dealing with the situation.

On the plus side, my husband grew up with parents who smoked. He does not have any health problems, except, perhaps for his somewhat hostile attitude toward smokers. -anon

Hi- Yes, in regards the smoking issue,you're in luck, if you live in Dublin,Emeryville,Albany,Oakland,or Marin,San Mateo or Contra Costa Counties, there is a No Smoking Ordinance in these areas. I had the same problem with tenants smoking,and saw an article in the June 11,2008 issue of the East Bay Express:Smoke Free Nation, by Eric Klein. You may want to check it out on line, the article gives a lot of important details about smoking being banned in multi-housing units,(ie condos,apts), if you are not living in these areas I stated above, you may want to call your City Administrator, to see if there is any Non Smoking Ordinance in your vicinity.If you happen to be living in the areas that a Smoking Ban is in order, you can get a copy of the Ordinance, and ''enlighten'' your landlord,or person in charge, and state that if the issue is not addressed you will begin to reinforce the smoking ban, which is the law.Good luck and hope this helps! Denise

Hi there - I'm on maternity leave right now but where I work can help you with information and resources on this topic - we get questions like this all the time. Contact Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights at anr [at], or 510/841-3032. You may also want to check out our website, where you can find a lot of good information: - or just go directly to this page:, aimed specifically at tenants in your situation. Good luck! --- You have a right to a smokefree home

Cigarette smoking condo neighbors

Dec 2005

Help, help, help. I am a condo owner in Moraga. I have neighbors (from the old country) who don't know/don't care about the dangers of secondhand smoke. I have an almost 4 year old. The smell that comes into my unit is incredible. So many people say that they can't smell it, but it's making me insane. I was advised to try mediation first (there's just no way this would work!). Small claims court does not seem to be the answer either. This would be a civil issue. I would certainly represent myself. There really is no legal precendent for this. My condo rules have the expanded definition for nuisance -- beyond just noise, but they seem to think they can do whatever they want in their apt. Help??

Unless your condo association has rules about not smoking in one's unit, it doesn't seem like there is anything you can do to ''force'' them to stop. While I sympathize with your situation, I'm a little shocked about your tone: ''they seem to think they can do whatever they want in their apt.'' Um, unless they're doing something illegal or against the rules, isn't that true? I'd suggest that you talk to them nicely to see if you can work out with a compromise. (Are there certain times of day when it's worse? are there some places they might smoke where it might not affect you as much?) At the same time, get your building manager to investigate the reason/try to prevent the smoke from leaking into your unit and also invest in a very good HEPA air filter. - sorry, no fan of smoking but you can't just be a bully either

You might look at 'Neighbor Law' by Cora Jordan, published by Nolo Press. It may be available at your local library. D

Controlling stale tobacco smell from downstairs neighbors

Nov 1999

My sister and brother-in-law have moved into an apartment in a duplex building. To their extreme dismay, they discovered after moving in that the downstairs tenants are heavy smokers who have lived there for 20 years. Can anyone recommend a product that will control the stale tobacco smell that permeates my sister's apartment, both the living areas and the closets? They are also looking into installing air purifiers for the apartment as well as for the inside staircase that they share with the downstairs tenants. Any recommendations? Thanks!

I moved into a townhouse that was previously occupied by smokers and the drapes were soaked with the smell of tobacco. I sprayed Febreeze on them one time and the odor was completely gone.