What Can I Do When Tobacco or Marijuana Smoke Drifts into My Unit?


The web links in blue provide further helpful resources.


      If you are suffering from exposure to tobacco or marijuana smoke coming into your unit, you are not alone!  Colorado has no laws regulating smoking inside an individual unit in multiunit residences. Colorado's Clean Indoor Air Act does require no-smoking policies in all indoor common areas of any residential apartment building.


The following suggestions and information may help resolve the problem.  Nothing in this document should be considered legal advice; please consult an attorney before pursuing legal action.  Contact your local tobacco-prevention program as they may be able to provide resources, referrals, or assistance. Also see the More Helpful Materials section of this web site.


1) Keep track of your actions:  Track the steps you take to eliminate or reduce tobacco smoke coming into your residence by writing down everything you do, say, or get in writing. Use GASP’s tracking form. 


2) Determine where the smoke is coming from

      Tobacco or marijuana smoke can migrate through ventilation systems or come through plumbing-fixture gaps, baseboards, sprinkler heads, light-fixture openings, plaster cracks, bathroom fans, and other unsealed openings.  Sealing the largest openings may help reduce the smoke coming into a unit; however, these options may not eliminate the harm caused by breathing secondhand smoke. No air-filtration device currently available can get all the toxic or cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco or marijuana smoke out of the air.


3) Examine the lease

      Some activities often regulated or prohibited in a lease include anything that may cause annoyance, irritation, or health problems to other residents.  Common examples are playing music too loudly, having late-night parties, storing paint or other flammable materials, and others.  Does your lease prohibit nuisances or activities that limit “the peaceful enjoyment” in your dwelling?  Such clauses in a lease may help achieve a smoke-free policy.  Condominiums and HOA rules may require a vote of the majority of the owners and/or Board approval to institute a no-smoking policy.   GASP provides some tips for condominiums and HOAs here.


4) Obtain medical documentation

      If you or others in your residence have a health condition such as asthma, hay fever, allergies, cancer, or pulmonary or cardiac disease that makes it necessary to avoid exposure to tobacco or marijuana smoke, obtain a letter from a medical provider stating you should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke due to your health problems. Once a letter is obtained from your doctor, send a copy to the management by certified mail, return receipt requested.  Even in cases where there is no recognized medical condition, you may be able to obtain such a letter by talking to your medical provider about how secondhand smoke affects you.


5) Approach management or put it in writing

      Discuss the problem with management to try to resolve the problem.  If  that does not produce results, putting your complaint in writing may help show management you are serious.  Sending copies of your correspondence to your local tobacco-prevention program may help. GASP has a sample letter-writing tool that could be used to communicate with management. Educate management on how smoke-free policies reduce maintenance and cleanup costs, and reduce fire danger.  Most Coloradans do not smoke and prefer to live in a smoke-free building.  GASP’s Colorado Guide to Establishing No-Smoking Policies in Multiunit Housing may be helpful.


6) Seek out others for support

      A complaint coming from several people may be taken more seriously than a complaint from one person.  Contact other neighbors, participate in resident meetings, write an article for an apartment newsletter, or post notices on building bulletin boards.  Conducting resident surveys with the consent of management may help convince management that most residents support a smoke-free policy. Your local tobacco-prevention program may be able to provide assistance, resources, or referrals.  Share your experiences with elected officials at the city, county, and state level and ask them to look into laws to protect you from secondhand smoke in your dwelling.


      Educate people about the dangers of secondhand smoke. People who might not otherwise be concerned about tobacco of marijuana smoke may view it quite differently if they know that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, and heart disease, has 250 toxic and cancer-causing chemicals, and causes 50,000 deaths each year.  In addition up to 50% of the air in an apartment is recirculated. For more information about secondhand tobacco smoke, visit the GASP Web site and smokeissmoke.com for information about secondhand marijuana smoke.


7) Try using mediation

      Sometimes the best way to resolve this problem is to involve a mediator or mediation services that will get all parties together to try to resolve the issue.  This will likely be less costly than going to court.  Some communities or health departments may offer free mediation services.  The Colorado Mediation Association provides an online system for finding paid mediators.


8) Should I move?

      If it is possible to get out of the lease, then moving might be considered as an option as it may be easier, take a lot less time, and be less expensive than a lawsuit.  If you move, make sure your next place is a smoke-free building.  Mysmokefreehousing.com provides a list of residential buildings that do not allow smoking inside or on the entire property.  Be sure to visit them first, review the lease and building rules, and talk to the residents about the no-smoking policy.   Use the Internet and search for “no-smoking” or “smoke-free” apartments.


9)  Should I seek legal assistance?

      You may have a better case if you can document that you have made every attempt to resolve the problem.  Keep in mind that going to court can be expensive, can take a long time, and winning a case is not guaranteed.  If you have never obtained legal help before, here are some tips about hiring a lawyer.  Some resources for locating an attorney include: low-income legal aid,  DU list of legal aid services, the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, and the Colorado Bar Association.


The Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution (GASP of Colorado) is a statewide nonprofit organization working to eliminate secondhand smoke from the air we breathe by advocating for smoke-free policies at work, in public places, and in multiunit housing. Your tax-deductible donation helps GASP advocate for your right to breathe smoke-free air at work, in public housing, and in multiunit housing.


None of the suggestions provided in this document shall constitute legal advice.

Please consult an attorney before pursuing legal action.


Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution

GASP of Colorado