Secondhand Smoke is Toxic

The research is overwhelming – with over 7,000 chemicals, at least 70 of which are cancer-causing, even brief exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous.1

Secondhand smoke is both the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke that is exhaled by smokers. It can stay in the air long after a cigarette has been put out and can be involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers.

Secondhand smoke kills tens of thousands of Americans every year and causes serious life-threatening illnesses to thousands more. In 2006, the California Air Resources Board classified secondhand smoke as a “Toxic Air Contaminant” in the same category as asbestos, cyanide and arsenic2 – all of which can lead to serious illness and death.2

The U.S. Surgeon General says there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. In fact, secondhand smoke exposure can cause asthma in children who have previously not had any symptoms.2 Other health effects on children from secondhand smoke exposure3 include:

  • Low birth weight and lung problems in infants
  • Acute lower respiratory tract infections (bronchitis and pneumonia)
  • Middle-ear infections
  • Chronic respiratory symptoms or problems

Secondhand smoke is also a serious health threat for nonsmoking adults. It causes lung cancer in those who haven’t previously smoked and increases the risk for heart disease, stroke and chronic lung problems.1

Millions of Californians continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke at work and home.

  • References

    1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease, A Report of the Surgeon General. 2010.
    2. State of California Air Resources Board. Proposed Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant. Executive Summary, 2005.
    3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Fact Sheet: "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking," 1993.

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