Secondhand smoke contains harmful gases and particles. At least 250 chemicals are known to be toxic, including more than 50 carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents.
Secondhand smoke (SHS) produces indoor air pollution and is the greatest source of air particle pollution. And because it is basically pure tobacco smoke, it contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic, including more than 50 cancer-causing agents.
According to the Surgeon General’s report, there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. The following facts show that smoking isn’t just harmful to the smoker but to non-smokers who involuntarily inhale the deadly chemicals too!
Current estimates of secondhand smoke exposure
Despite decreases in smoking and public smoking areas, more than 126 million nonsmoking Americans continue to be exposed to SHS in homes, vehicles, workplaces, and public places.
Exposure to SHS leads to immediate problems like irritation of the nose, eyes and throat; cough; nausea; dizziness and headaches. SHS also can cause other respiratory problems in nonsmokers, including phlegm, chest discomfort, and reduced lung function.
• Over 53% of under-age youth with asthma reported being exposed to SHS.
• 35% of under-age youth reported being exposed to SHS while riding in a car.
• 17.7% of children live in homes where smoking is allowed in the house itself.
• SHS is estimated to be responsible for 1,600 premature deaths every year.
Secondhand smoke causes serious health risks to unborn babies and children
Secondhand smoke can decrease the blood flow to an unborn child, affecting its heart, lungs, digestive system, central nervous system, and growth rate.
Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks.
Infants and children who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of middle ear infections and lower respiratory track infections, like pneumonia and bronchitis.
Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and heart disease
Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20–30%.
Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25–30%.
People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk of suffering adverse effects from secondhand smoke, and should take special precautions to avoid even brief exposures.
Secondhand smoke can even harm pets
Secondhand smoke is linked to negative health effects on household pets: Lymphoma – the most common type of cancer in cats –is now linked to secondhand smoke.
Dogs that inhale secondhand smoke are three times more likely to develop lung or nasal cancer than dogs living in smoke-free homes.
Birds can experience adverse reactions to secondhand smoke and may develop eye problems, as well as other respiratory problems like coughing and wheezing.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use, Fact Sheet, Secondhand Smoke. Retrieved October 29, 2007 from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/Factsheets/SecondhandSmoke.htm.
Passive smoking and health. Educational Resource kit. Institute for Global Tobacco Control. Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. 1999.
Samet JM, Wang SS. Environmental Tobacco Smoke. In: Environmental Toxicants: Human Exposures and Their Health Effects (Lippmann M, ed). New York:Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, Inc.,2000;319-375.
World Health Organization. Retrieved August 2003 from www.who.int/toh.
Health Canada. Retrieved August 2003 from www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/tobacco.
National Cancer Institute. Retrieved August 2003 from www.nci.gov.
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Retrieved August 2003 from www.oehha.org.