Such measures, Cook said, might be comparable to efforts that have already been implemented in public places such as bars and restaurants. He added that regulations for the home could be especially beneficial to children living in poorer households, who are disproportionately affected and "have a higher likelihood of living in rental housing."
But while most experts support the findings, a few had concerns that instituting a smoking ban to deal with the issue could create more problems than solutions. Ron Borland of the VicHealth Center for Tobacco Control in Australia said he worries that some low-income tenants may face eviction if smoking bans are instituted.
"Arguments about expelling smoking tenants and even making it a child abuse offense have the potential to do much more harm and should not be part of the discourse," he said. "Disadvantaged people need help, not being put down by ill-meaning but naive good-doers."
Still, many doctors see the opportunity to use this research to for social good. "I would hope it would have significant long-term impact on making changes to protect children," said Dr. Wesley Burks, professor and chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
Winickoff agreed. "A child with asthma has no choice and is forced to breathe contaminated air in multi-unit homes. Interestingly, children are a protected under the law [on other issues] because they can't vote or speak for themselves."
What this could mean for landlords and property owners is yet to be seen. According to Winickoff, approximately 5 percent of public housing is already smoke-free.