What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a combination of the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke inhaled by a smoker.  Exposure to secondhand smoke occurs anytime a smoker smokes a cigarette, pipe or cigar around another individual. 

Why should you be concerned about secondhand smoke exposure?

According to the U.S. Surgeon General report, there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.

It is estimated that in the past 50 years, more than two million people who did not smoke died because of their exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke often contains more than 7,000 chemicals and at least 70 of them are known to cause cancer. It is estimated that secondhand smoke causes more than 30,000 adult deaths each year from heart disease and thousands of non-smokers die from lung cancer annually.

What are the health risks for children exposed to secondhand smoke?

  • Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke because their lungs are still developing.
  • Exposure can cause asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. It can make colds and respiratory illnesses worse and increase the number of ear infections. Secondhand smoke has also been linked to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), miscarriages, and low birth weight.
  • Smoke-filled rooms can have up to six times the air pollution of a busy highway.

How can I protect myself from secondhand smoke?

  • Make your car and home smoke-free.
  • Avoid places where people are allowed to smoke, especially indoor locations with poor ventilation. Remember that even if a location has good ventilation it cannot remove all of the secondhand smoke and there is no safe level of exposure.
  • Support businesses and locations that provide a 100% smoke-free environment.

What is thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke (THS) refers to nicotine, harmful chemicals, and toxins left on surfaces, even after the tobacco smoke-itself has dissipated. Thirdhand smoke can saturate skin, furniture, and walls. To learn more about THS and its effects, visit the Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center.

How can I stay smoke-free in the workplace?



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Last modified on 08/21/2023