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Indoor Concentrations of Nicotine in Low-Income, Multi-family Housing: Associations with Smoking Behaviors and Housing Characteristics
  1. Tiffany A. Kraev1,
  2. Gary Adamkiewicz1,
  3. S. Katharine Hammond2,
  4. John D. Spengler1
  1. 1 Harvard School of Publice Health, United States;
  2. 2 School of Public Health, University of California, United States
  1. * Corresponding author; email: gadamkie{at}


Background: This paper presents an analysis of airborne nicotine measurements collected in 49 low-income, multi-family residences across the Greater Boston Area.

Methods: Nicotine concentrations were determined using passive monitors placed in homes over one-week sampling periods and air exchange rates (AER) were sampled using the perflurocarbon tracer technique. Residents were administered a questionnaire about smoking behavior and a visual inspection was conducted to collect information on housing characteristics contributing to secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure. Using a mass balance model to account for the air exchange rate, home volume, and sorption and re-emission of nicotine from indoor surfaces, the effective smoking rate (SReff) was determined for each residence.

Results: Nicotine levels ranged from the limit of detection to 26.92 µg/m3, with a mean of 2.20 µg/m3 and median of 0.13 µg/m3. Nicotine measurements were significantly associated with the number of household smokers and the number of cigarettes smoked in the home. The results of this study suggest that questionnaire reports can provide a valid estimate of residential exposure to tobacco smoke. This study found evidence that tobacco smoke contamination in low-income housing developments is not limited to homes with smokers (either residing in the home or visiting). The frequent report of tobacco smoke odor coming from other apartments or hallways resulted in increased nicotine concentrations and SReff in nonsmoking homes, suggestive of SHS infiltration from neighboring units.

Conclusion: These findings have important implications for smoking regulations in multi-family homes and highlight the need to reduce involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke among low-income housing residents.

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