Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke in Cars

Secondhand Smoke Facts

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of two forms of smoke that come from burning tobacco: side-stream smoke (the smoke from the lighted end of a cigarette) and mainstream smoke (the smoke exhaled by a smoker). Side-stream smoke is more toxic than mainstream smoke, as it has much higher concentrations of cancer-causing substances.

The dangers of secondhand smoke are immense. It is classified as a Class A carcinogen, as it has been proven to cause cancer in people. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals—250 are known to be harmful, and at least 70 cause cancer.

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Not even air-cleaning systems, ventilation systems or separate smoking sections can eliminate its risk. It causes disease and death in people who don’t smoke, including coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. In fact, secondhand smoke kills nearly 50,000 nonsmokers each year.

People who die in the U.S. each year from cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke: approximately 480,000.

Secondhand Smoke and Children

Secondhand smoke is dangerous to you, but it’s especially harmful to your children. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable, as their bodies and lungs have not yet fully developed. Exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Ear infections
  • Asthma attacks
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Low birth weight, decreased blood flow and a weaker heart, lungs, digestive system and nervous system when exposed during pregnancy

Did you know?

30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart damage similar to that of an everyday smoker.

Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke

  • Respiratory infections
  • Asthma
  • Coughing, sore throats, sniffling and sneezing
  • Chronic coughing, phlegm and wheezing
  • Chest discomfort
  • Eye and nose irritation
  • Lowered lung function
  • Severe and chronic heart disease
  • Middle ear infections in children
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Low birth weight for babies of women exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • Stroke

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