Secondhand Smoke: Smoke from Cigarettes Harm Others

Secondhand smoke comes from the lighted end of a cigarette, cigar, bidi or other tobacco product as well a smoker’s exhaled smoke. Just like the smoke that a smoker inhales, secondhand smoke contains toxic chemicals and nicotine. The Environmental Protection Agency lists secondhand smoke as a known cause of lung cancer. It is in the same group as radon, benzene and asbestos. You wouldn’t expose others to those chemicals if you could help it, right?

But when you smoke, the people around you—your friends, children, family members, coworkers, and even strangers—are exposed to secondhand smoke and have no defense against it. This is also called involuntary smoking or passive smoking, and it can cause some of the same health problems that smokers face.

Dangers Of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke can cause lots of health problems in nonsmokers, including: chronic coughing, phlegm, wheezing, chest discomfort, lowered lung function, sneezing, eye irritation, headaches, severe lower respiratory tract infections like bronchitis and pneumonia and nose and throat pain in adults. It also can make asthma worse.

Secondhand Smoke Is Bad for Kids

Children’s bodies are still growing and their lungs aren't as strong as adults’ lungs. Secondhand smoke slows healing, so kids who are exposed to it usually stay sick longer. Kids who live in homes where people smoke:

  • Miss more school days than children whose homes are smoke free.
  • Are more likely to get colds, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
  • Are at higher risk for asthma and middle ear infections.

Women exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy are at increased risk for having low birth weight or small babies, and infants in smoking households have a doubled risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

And the scariest fact of all: Kids who grow up watching people smoke are more likely to become smokers themselves!

Scary Secondhand Smoke Statistics

Nonsmokers who live in homes where someone smokes are at the greatest risk for suffering the negative health effects of secondhand smoke exposure. But even brief contact with secondhand smoke can be hazardous. There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • About 53,000 adults die every year from exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • An estimated 46,000 nonsmokers who live with smokers die each year from heart disease.
  • About 3,400 nonsmokers die from lung cancer each year.
  • Anyone who hangs out in a smoky place for 8 hours inhales the same poisons as a person who smoked a whole pack of cigarettes. Yuck!