What is second-hand smoke?
Second-hand smoke, also known as passive or involuntary smoke, refers to smoke from a person’s cigarette, pipe or cigar, or smoke that has been exhaled by a smoker.
Why is second-hand smoke harmful?
According to the Cancer Council, tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and can cause adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. At least 69 of these chemicals can cause cancer.
Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, which include asthma, respiratory tract infections, decreased lung function, middle ear disease and other negative health outcomes.
How to reduce your exposure to second-hand smoke?
The best way to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke is to make our surrounding environment smoke-free.
NSW Health has legislation to protect our community from exposure to second-hand smoke in most indoor areas and public places.
Actions you can take to reduce second-hand smoke exposure:
- Make your car and home smoke-free environments.
- If you or someone in your family smokes, ask them to change their clothes or have a shower before entering the home.
- Try to quit smoking or encourage a family member to quit - visit the NSW Quitline for help.
Second-hand smoke in residential houses
While private residential homes are often separate, second-hand smoke can still be a problem as it can drift from one property to another through windows, doors, vents and other openings. Exposure to second-hand smoke in houses becomes worse when neighbours smoke close to the property boundary.
Second-hand smoke can cause tension and disputes among neighbours, as it impedes residents' rights to breathe clean air in their home.
What can you do if you experience second-hand smoke in your house?
In apartments, there are strata regulations which protect residents from second-hand smoke exposure. However, in private, single dwelling houses, there are no governing regulations regarding second-hand smoke.
However, there are a number of ways you can try to address this issue:
1. Communicate with your neighbour
Generally, the most effective way to address the issue of second-hand smoke, is to speak with your neighbour and ask them politely to smoke in an alternative area that will not impact you. You could chat to them in person or else write a letter or email to them. In your communication, you should explain how their smoking is directly impacting your health and offer suggestions as to where they can smoke without affective neighbouring properties.
2. Contact the property manager
If your neighbour is renting their property, their smoking could be in contravention of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, which states that residents should not "interfere, or cause or permit any interference, with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of any neighbour of the tenant". You can contact the property manager or real estate agent to report the issue of second-hand smoke.
However, it is important to keep in mind that any action pursued through the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 needs to be between the landlord and tenant. Unfortunately, as a neighbour you do not have rights under this act. But it is still worth contacting the landlord or managing agent so they can address the issue with the tenant.
If the landlord or managing agent choose to cooperate, they are able to issue the tenant with a letter asking them to stop smoking where it impacts neighbours. If the incessant smoking continues, the agency could opt to not renew the lease.
If the issue remains unresolved, you can pursue the issue further through Fair Trading and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
3. Seek legal advice
If you are unable to resolve the issue through the aforementioned ways, you do have the option of seeking legal advice. Unfortunately, due to lack of legislation protecting residents of private homes from second-hand smoke, you may discover that there are limited avenues to pursue. Legal advice can also be costly so it is important to consider this.
Alternatively, the Community Justice Centre also provides services to assist neighbours to resolve private disputes.
Second-hand smoke in apartments
Second-hand smoke tends to be a problem for residents living in apartments due to the close proximity to their neighbours. Second-hand smoke can drift between apartments via doorways, windows, cracks in walls, electrical lines, ventilation systems and plumbing and can cause a number of health issues.
In NSW, the most effective way to eliminate second-hand smoke problems in apartments is for building complex strata committees to ban smoking by introducing a smoke-free by-law.
The Cancer Council has developed a comprehensive Achieving Smoke-free Apartments toolkit to provide guidance on the development and implementation of a smoke-free by-law.
The toolkit summarises the health, financial and legal benefits of smoke-free apartment complexes, the steps that can be taken to achieve smoke-free living, and examples of what to include in a smoke-free by-law.
For more details about second-hand smoke in apartments, visit the Cancer Council NSW.
Smoke-free zones in Woollahra
Woollahra Council has a number of smoke-free zones, which are in place to reduce people’s exposure to second-hand smoke and will create a more supportive environment for those who have quit smoking.
Smoking and using e-cigarettes are banned in the following outdoor public areas:
- Within 10 metres of children’s play equipment in outdoor public places
- Public swimming pools
- All beaches and harbourside pools within the Woollahra Local Government Area
- Spectator areas at sports grounds or other recreational areas used for organised sporting events
- Public transport stops and platforms, including ferry wharves and taxi ranks
- Within 4 metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building
- Commercial outdoor dining areas
Enclosed public areas
Smoking and using e-cigarettes are banned in all enclosed public areas including in shopping centres, cinemas and libraries.
Smoking and using e-cigarettes on public transport vehicles such as trains, buses, light rail, ferries is also banned under the Passenger Transport (General) Regulation 2017.
Enforcement of smoking bans
NSW Health is responsible for administering and enforcing the Smoke-free Environment Act 2000.
NSW Health inspectors conduct regular compliance monitoring and enforcement activity. They can issue cautions or on the spot fines of $300 to people who break the smoking bans.
Inspectors can also provide education to the public on smoking bans, and work with property and building owners to display smoke-free signage and remove butt bins, where appropriate.
If you think a smoking ban has been broken, you can contact NSW Health by completing the online reporting form.
Get support to quit smoking
If you are a smoker or you know someone who smokes, it's important to keep in mind that quitting smoking is one of the most important things a smoker can do to reduce their risk of ill health and cancer. Whether you want to quit or are looking to help someone you care about, there are a wide range of resources to help.
Quit Smoking Kit: This free quit smoking resource provides advice on planning and preparing to quit smoking as well as information on tips and strategies to help you or a loved one to quit smoking successfully.
iCanQuit: A free online resource that provides you with tools and support to help you plan your quit journey.
QuitCoach: Quit Coach smoking advice is a free online tool that provides you with a personalised quitting plan.
Call NSW Quitline (13 78 48): The NSW Quitline is a free and confidential telephone service providing customised assistance to support you in quitting smoking. The service is available at the following times: Monday-Friday: 7am to 10:30pm ; Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 9am to 5pm.