Secondhand Smoke

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

When tobacco is lit, thousands of chemicals are released in the smoke. Some of these chemicals are found only in tobacco smoke. Many of them are also highly toxic. Some of the smoke is inhaled by the smoker, but a larger amount of smoke is released into the air.

Two-thirds of the smoke from a cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker. The smoke that is exhaled by the smoker (mainstream smoke) mixes with the smoke from the lit end of the tobacco (sidestream smoke) to form what is known as “secondhand smoke” or ETS, “environmental tobacco smoke.” The chemicals in secondhand smoke are virtually the same chemicals that the smoker inhales, sometimes in greater concentration. (Physicians for Smoke-Free Canada, 1999) In the United States, deaths caused by the exposure to secondhand smoke ranks number three for preventable causes of death.

What do you need to know about secondhand smoke?

  • Secondhand smoke is what smokers breathe out. It is also the smoke that comes from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
  • Smoke from the burning end of a cigarette has more toxins than smoke inhaled by the smoker and is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States today.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks secondhand smoke as one of the most dangerous substances known to cause cancer.
  • Each year 3,000 nonsmokers die from lung cancer deaths.
  • Because of ETS, 30,000 to 60,000 adults die each year from heart disease.
  • Smoke filled rooms can have up to six times the pollution of a crowded highway.
  • Secondhand smoke is also linked to cancer of the nasal cavity, cervix, breast, and bladder.

Special Concerns for Babies and Children Exposed to Secondhand Smoke

    • Passive smoke is linked to miscarriages, low birth weight, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
    • More children die in house fires caused by cigarettes than in any other kind of fire.
    • Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to get colds, allergies, asthma, and ear infections.
    • Secondhand smoke causes 300,000 cases of pneumonia and bronchitis in children every year.

 Ways to Say No to Secondhand Smoke

  •  Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home or in your car ever! Click here to download a Smoke-Free Home Pledge and a Smoke-Free Car Pledge!
  • In other people’s homes and cars, ask that people refrain from smoking around you.
  • Insist on non-smoking daycare for your children. Contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency for information.