(CBS) Smokers who have been forced out of bars and restaurants may soon be crowded into little groups outside one more place: their homes.
A new study finds that even when kids live with non-smoking parents, if they live in apartment buildings they are exposed to tobacco smoke from their neighbors. Now, researchers are recommending that owners and landlords make their buildings smoke-free zones.
The deadly smoke seeps through walls or common air ducts from smokers' apartments, according to the study published today in Pediatrics.
"Parents try so hard to protect their children from dangers, such as tobacco smoke." said Dr. Karen Wilson, an author of the study and assistant professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Golisano Children's Hospital, said in a written statement.
"It's surprising to see these results and realize that too many parents have no control over whether their children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes," she said.
Children are in danger of a number of health problems if they are exposed to cigarette smoke. The U.S. Surgeon General says there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. In children, tobacco smoke causes and increases the severity of asthma, influenza and bronchiolitis, a lung infection primarily found in kids.
It can also cause sudden death syndrome and cognitive deficits in infants. And even unborn children are at risk: if pregnant women inhale tobacco smoke, their child may be born with low birth weight or prematurely.
The solution? The true fix to protect residents is to make apartment housing smoke-free, says Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, senior study author who practices at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children.
"A child with asthma has no choice, people who smoke can go outside," he said. "I think that landlords and building owners will now be deciding how soon to go smoke free and not whether to go smoke free. I don't think anyone wants to be the slumlord of the last building to allow smoking inside."