Protection needed from exposure to tobacco smoke at home


The tobacco and nicotine policy development working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health proposed that housing communities must be given the right to ban smoking in apartments and on balconies by a majority decision. Current legislation fails to sufficiently protect everyone from exposure to tobacco smoke in housing communities.

The hazards of exposure to tobacco smoke are particularly present in blocks of flats. At the end of 2020, 47 per cent of all homes in Finland were in blocks of flats with roughly two million people living in them.

“Legislation must make it easier for housing communities to issue a smoking ban: they must be given the right to ban smoking by a majority decision at a general meeting. The current process of applying for a smoking ban is considered burdensome, difficult and time-consuming by both housing communities and municipalities,” says Professor Pekka Puska, Chair of ASH Finland.

Environmental tobacco smoke is a carcinogenic mixture and a health hazard, and no safety limit has been established for its concentration in indoor air. The health hazards of exposure to tobacco smoke are even worse among residents who have difficulties leaving home due to illness or disability. Remote work and distance learning that have gained popularity in recent years also increase the risk of exposure at home. Furthermore, home care employees, personal assistants, informal carers and other people working in the homes of others are at risk of being exposed to tobacco smoke while working.

“The justness of smoking bans should be examined from the perspective of health protection and occupational safety instead of focusing on the individual’s right to smoke. It is illogical that people are protected from exposure to carcinogenic mixtures at work, but no such protection exists at home,” says Professor Pekka Puska.

Population supports ban on balcony smoking

The population strongly supports banning balcony smoking in housing companies. In a survey commissioned by ASH Finland in 2022, 59 per cent of the population supported a total ban on balcony smoking.

Tobacco smoke is also widely perceived as disturbing.

“According to an opinion survey carried out by ASH Finland in 2020, 49 per cent of residents of blocks of flats reported that tobacco smoke carries to their apartment or balcony. 82 per cent of them found it disturbing – and that includes as many as 40 per cent of the residents who are smokers themselves,” says Mervi Hara, Executive Director of ASH Finland.

Young people want smoke-free terraces

The tobacco and nicotine policy development working group also proposed that the Tobacco Act prohibit smoking on restaurant terraces.

Young adults, in particular, are in favour of banning smoking on restaurant terraces. According to a survey commissioned by ASH Finland in 2022, as many as 73 per cent of 18–24-year-olds support a ban on the use of tobacco products on restaurant terraces. Of all respondents, 56 per cent support the ban.

“Young people are used to smoke-free environments and consider them the norm. Smoke-free terraces would not only reduce exposure to tobacco smoke, but also strengthen the view of smoke-free environments as the norm and prevent people from taking up smoking,” says Mervi Hara.