Please call 213-351-7890.

NOTE: TCPP can only address smoking violations in Los Angeles County. If the violation occurred outside of Los Angeles County you can browse our links page or contact your local health department for more information.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke (SHS) is smoke from burning tobacco products. Secondhand smoke is also smoke that has been exhaled, or breathed out, by the person smoking. It is not just a byproduct of combustible tobacco products, but also includes exposure to aerosols as another potential source of exposure to toxicants. Each year, exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 41,000 deaths among adults in the United States, including 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease. Adverse health effects of SHS include heart disease, lung and nasal sinus cancer, and respiratory illnesses.

SHS contains human carcinogens, and mutagenic compounds such as hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, and arsenic. Recommendations from national experts, including the U.S. Surgeon General, point to the importance of reducing exposure to SHS as a leading strategy to reduce tobacco-related disease and death. Reducing exposure to SHS can be done by creating more indoor and outdoor smoke-free environments. Along with its direct effects, creating smoke-free environments has the added benefit of changing social norms around tobacco use. For example, creating smoke-free outdoor public spaces de-normalizes smoking and decreases opportunities for youth modeling smoking behavior. Please see the following fact sheet for more information about California’s clean air laws.

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in Outdoor Areas

In the 26 years since California’s Smoke-Free Workplace Law was adopted, residents have grown accustomed to and reaped the health benefits of smoke-free indoor environments. Smoking in restaurants, bars, and other workplaces, once commonplace, is now, for the most part, a thing of the past.

Many cities and counties in California are working to protect their residents from SHS exposure by passing policies that restrict smoking in outdoor areas, especially recreation areas and other places where people congregate. These outdoor areas include public parks, beaches, dining areas, and around doorways and windows of public buildings. Despite these successes in reducing exposure to SHS, outdoor exposure remains a serious, yet preventable, health threat.

Outdoor SHS accounts for a significant amount of nonsmokers’ exposure to hazardous tobacco products. Every day, Californians visit parks, beaches, golf courses, outdoor seating areas of restaurants, public events such as concerts, and service areas such as ATM lines and bus stops only to find themselves and their children exposed to toxic SHS and discarded cigarette butts.

Who is Most Affected?

According to the 2018 Los Angeles County Health Survey, within outdoor areas:

  • 54.6% of LA County residents reported being exposed to someone else’s cigarette smoke in the past two weeks
  • 69.3% of young adults (18-24) and over 81.1% of adults (25-29) experienced SHS exposure
  • 60% of African Americans were exposed to SHS at a higher rate compared to Asians, Whites and Latinos (58.5%, 57.4%, and 49.7% respectively)
  • 30.3% of LA County residents reported being exposed to someone else’s e-cigarette smoke or vapor in an outdoor area in the past two weeks
  • 38.7% of Asians were disproportionally impacted by exposure to e-cigarette smoke or vapor at a higher rate compared to Whites, African Americans, and Latinos (34.1%, 27.5%, and 24.5% respectively)

Parks and outdoor areas are a vital component of the County’s infrastructure and contribute to public health and overall well-being. However, the benefits of fresh air in open spaces are jeopardized by SHS and toxic tobacco waste. Under California Health & Safety Code 104495, smoking is only prohibited in playgrounds or tot lot sandbox areas. California law (Labor Code Section 6404.5 has also made great strides to prohibit the smoking of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and marijuana in indoor areas of restaurants and bars, while expressly authorizing local communities to enact additional restrictions.

Smoke-free outdoor areas policies can protect the public from exposure to SHS smoke (including aerosol produced by electronic smoking devices or ESDs) by prohibiting smoking in these public outdoor areas, such as outdoor dining.

According to the American Lung Association, at least 404 California jurisdictions have adopted laws that restrict smoking in outdoor recreation areas (e.g., parks, beaches, trails), these include 71 LA County jurisdictions such as Unincorporated LA County, and the cities of Beverly Hills, Culver City, Gardena, Inglewood, Rosemead, and Santa Monica. In addition, over 175 California jurisdictions have adopted laws that restrict smoking in outdoor dining areas, these include 34 LA County jurisdictions such as Los Angeles, Baldwin Park, Redondo Beach, San Fernando, and Temple City.

Electronic Smoking Devices and Secondhand Smoke

While rates of smoking have been in a decline for the past decades, there’s been an increase in the use of emerging tobacco products, including a dramatic increase in use of electronic smoking devices (ESDs). ESDs are devices that allow users to inhale aerosols and typically include nicotine, flavoring, and other additives. Secondhand aerosol is generated and emitted when a user activates the device, and while commonly believed to be safe, ESD aerosol is not harmless “water vapor”, but instead contains emissions that may include nicotine, heavy metals, glycols, and other harmful compounds. Research confirms that ESDs are not emission-free, and their pollutants could be of health concern for both users and those exposed to secondhand aerosol. Secondhand e-cigarette aerosol has been found to contain at least ten chemicals that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

According to the Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, prohibiting the use of ESDs reduces the potential health risks to nonusers from exposure to ESD aerosols. It also discourages dual use of ESD and combustible tobacco products and increases public compliance with enforcement of existing smoke-free laws. For more information on ESDs, please see the following fact sheets “Vaping & E-Cigarettes - What is the Bottom Line" and "Vaping."

Cannabis and Secondhand Smoke

Although adult recreational use of cannabis is legal in California, state laws (Health & Safety Code 11362.3 and 11362.79) prohibit smoking cannabis in public places or in any place where smoking tobacco is prohibited by law. Many cities have not updated their municipal code to be consistent with state law.

Both cannabis and tobacco smoke have been placed on the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm. Secondhand cannabis smoke contains fine particulate matter, which poses a risk to non-smokers. These fine particles can cause lung irritation, asthma attacks, and respiratory infection, as well as exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For more information about this topic, please see the following fact sheets “Marijuana & Tobacco Use.” and “Secondhand Marijuana Smoke.”

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in Multi-Unit Housing (MUH)

Although California has made great progress in eliminating SHS in the workplace, for the many Californians who live in multi-unit housing (e.g., apartments, condominiums), breathing SHS drifting from neighboring units, balconies, and outdoor areas is an ongoing and real health problem.

SHS can seep under doorways, through wall cracks, windows, shared ventilation systems, plumbing fixtures, and electrical conduits. Persons living in apartments near smokers can be exposed to elevated pollution levels for 24 hours a day. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from SHS exposure. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate SHS exposure.

Who is Most Affected?

According to the 2018 Los Angeles County Health Survey, among LA County residents:

  • 10.3% of adults living in multi-unit housing are exposed to secondhand smoke one to six days per week
  • 8.2% of households with children (0–17 years old) in LA County were regularly exposed (one or more days in the past week) to tobacco smoke in the home
  • 2 in 5 children, ages 3 to 11, are exposed to secondhand smoke
  • 34% of multiunit housing residents with smoke-free home rules report that secondhand smoke involuntarily enters their homes from somewhere else in or around the building

While the average rate of exposure to SHS in multi-unit housing has decreased, disparities still exist:

  • 16.3% of adult Los Angeles County residents who live between 0-99% below the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) were exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes compared to 12.7% of adult who live between 100%-199% below the FPL
  • 16.8% of young adults (18-24) were exposed to secondhand smoke
  • 11.7% of Latinos experienced exposure to secondhand smoke, followed by African Americans, Asians, and Whites (11.4%, 10.4%, and 8.3%, respectively)
  • 13.1% of persons with a disability were exposed to secondhand smoke

What are the Benefits of Smoke-free Multi-Unit Housing?

There are many benefits for both tenants and landlords that can come from smoke-free multi-unit housing policies. Smoke-free multi-unit housing can improve air quality and increase overall health and wellness by protecting residents from exposure to SHS, including aerosol produced by ESDs, by prohibiting smoking in new and existing units in multi-unit housing, including enclosed or unenclosed areas such as balconies, patios, decks, porches, and all common areas. Smoke-free multi-unit housing policies also mitigate the risk of fire damage, injury, or death is in a smoke-free building. Smoke-free units have reduced maintenance costs including re-painting and replacement of carpets.

According to The Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing, at least 61 jurisdictions in California have adopted laws that prohibit smoking in multi-unit housing, including the Los Angeles County jurisdictions of Baldwin Park, Bell Gardens, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Calabasas, Compton, Culver City, El Monte, Glendale, Huntington Park, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Santa Monica, South Pasadena, Temple City, and West Hollywood.

Thirdhand Smoke

In addition to SHS exposure, residents who live in multi-unit housing are at the highest risk of thirdhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke (THS) is tobacco smoke residue that is left behind when someone smokes indoors. The smoke sticks to surfaces such as walls, furniture and floors and other objects. To learn more about Thirdhand Smoke, please review the following fact sheet “Thirdhand Smoke, CDPH 2017.”

Smoking Complaint Submission and Resources

If you are experiencing secondhand smoke exposure where you live and reside within a city that does not currently have a smoke-free multi-unit housing policy, please submit your complaint* here:

When submitting your complaint, please provide the following information:

  • The city you live in
  • The type of dwelling you currently live in (e.g., apartment, condominium, single family home)
  • If you live in an apartment, is the apartment building you live in rent controlled?
  • Do you know if your lease includes a no smoking policy?

If you are experiencing SHS exposure where you live and reside in the following Los Angeles County cities, please visit your local city website for information on reporting and filing a complaint.

For more information and resources, please review the following:

If you are a property owner or manager and would like to implement a smoke-free policy for your multi-unit dwelling, the following documents may help you get started.

If you are a property owner or manager with a smoke-free policy for your multi-unit dwelling and would like to know more about implementing the policy, the following documents may help you get started.

If you are a multi-unit housing resident and would like more information about your options, the following documents may help you.



If you suffer from a medical condition that can be made worse by exposure to secondhand smoke, disability laws at the federal, state, and local level may require landlords to make accommodations. Please see below for more information and a sample Demand Letter.

If you would like general information on secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing, please see the following fact sheet from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

It is a violation of the California Labor Code, Section 6404.5(c) for anyone to smoke or use ESD’s in an indoor workplace. For more information, please see to the following documents:

If you would like to file a Labor Code complaint*, please email and include the information below or contact your local city enforcement.

Please include the following information when submitting a Labor Code complaint:

  • Business Name
  • Business Address

*Note: TCPP can only address SHS complaints occurring in Los Angeles County. If the incident occurred outside of Los Angeles County, please contact your local health department for more information. Complaints within the cities of Pasadena and Long Beach should be filed using the respective city’s Department of Public Health website.

Updated Los Angeles County Smoke-Free Code

On Tuesday March 26, 2019, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors passed amendments to strengthen the County's Ordinance on smoke-free environments and close loopholes where smoking is permitted. These changes affect places where smoking is prohibited at County facilities, at Outdoor Dining Establishments and around Mobile Food Establishments that operate in Unincorporated Los Angeles County.

For more information about where smoking is prohibited at County facilities, please see the following fact sheet.

The following changes affect businesses that operate in Unincorporated Los Angeles County:

  • Prohibit smoking within 25 feet of any outdoor area of an eating establishment or bar set aside for use by patrons; and
  • Prohibit smoking within 40 feet of any mobile food or temporary food facility, including trucks and carts that serve food to patrons.

Downloadable Signs

  • Small mobile food facilities (i.e. food carts and farmers market vendors) can download a sign here.
  • Large mobile food facilities (i.e. food truck) can download a sign here.
  • Dining establishments and bars can download a sign here.

Note: These signs cannot be modified or altered without consent. As required by Los Angeles County Code 11.15.040, dining and bar establishments must post printed signs at least 10 inches wide by 10 inches long, with letters at least one inch in height. The signage provided above meets these requirements.

For more information about the changes on smoke-free Dining and Mobile Food Establishments, please see the following fact sheet.

To see a copy of the Ordinance, click here.

For more information about the updated ordinance, email the Tobacco Control and Prevention Program at email or call (213) 351-7890

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