Toxins found in tobacco smoke are deadly, and there is no safe level of exposure. Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer in humans. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has declared secondhand tobacco smoke a Group A carcinogen, a rating “reserved for those compounds or mixtures which have been shown to cause cancer in humans, based on studies in human populations.” Exposure to tobacco smoke can cause a number of diseases and ailments in both smokers and nonsmokers; in addition, such exposure can exacerbate existing illnesses. In the United States, nearly 50,000 nonsmokers die each year as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. In short, exposure to “passive” tobacco smoke presents substantial health risks, despite an individual’s choice not to smoke. To combat the health hazards associated with exposure to secondhand smoke, states, communities, businesses, and individuals throughout the U.S. are choosing to ban smoking in a growing number of indoor settings. For example, Maine has become a state where smoke-free living is the norm, not the exception. Nearly all workplaces and public places are statutorily designated smoke-free spaces, and over the years smoking rates have declined dramatically. However, despite having some of the nation’s strongest smoke-free air laws, Maine residents continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke in the home because the State does not regulate smoking in private homes, nor does it require property owners to prohibit smoking in rental units. Yet, when a smoker lights up in a multi-unit building, everyone in the building is potentially exposed to their tobacco smoke. This Comment addresses the impacts and limitations of voluntary efforts to protect tenants from secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing; existing protections for individuals living in multi-unit housing who may be exposed to secondhand smoke; theories of civil liability and remedies available to tenants exposed; and recommendations for legislative intervention to ensure that tenants living in multi-unit rental housing are protected from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.

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