There Is More Secondhand Smoke Around You Than You Think

By now, everyone knows that secondhand smoke from cigarettes is bad for you and responsible for the deaths of about 4,000 Californians each year.1  But what Californians also need to know is that they are likely surrounded by more secondhand smoke than they think.

California has strong state laws that prohibit smoking in a wide array of places, and the laws apply to cigarettes, cigars, little cigars (or cigarillos), e-cigarettes, marijuana and hookah.  Because of these state laws, the vast majority of of California’s indoor spaces are protected, including public and private buildings, government buildings, restaurants, bars, malls, and movie theaters, so Californians can work, play and relax without being exposed to toxic chemicals from secondhand smoke. However, because American Indian tribes are sovereign entities, their  lands are not covered by state laws that prohibit smoking in indoor spaces. Many tribal casinos have adopted no-smoking policies that limit where smoking is allowed.

But outdoor spaces can be a bit more challenging.  A survey found the most common places for Californians to be exposed to any type of secondhand smoke are sidewalks, shopping malls and workplaces!2  This illustrates how tricky it can be to eliminate all secondhand smoke in public places, despite a number of both state and local laws that prohibit tobacco use in many public and outdoor spaces.  One of the most complicated places to protect are building entryways and service areas, which includes ATM lines, public transit stops, taxi stands or ticket lines.  These are shared spaces that scores of people use every day, and should be able to do so without worrying about being exposed to secondhand smoke.

And now these places, along with many others, may have even more secondhand smoke around them. It’s due to two new sources. First is the growth of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in recent years. Mounting research shows these devices, which heat e-liquid, to be harmful as well, especially for youth and young adults. What’s more, they may be risky to people around them as well – the US Surgeon General has concluded that secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes is NOT harmless water vapor, but instead is an aerosol that contains a mixture of dangerous chemicals, including heavy metals.3

Second, marijuana use has become increasingly common since being legalized in November 2016, exposing more Californians to marijuana secondhand smoke in public and private places. In fact, secondhand smoke from marijuana has higher amounts of some toxic chemicals such as tar and ammonia, and more than twice the amount of hydrogen cyanide, an extremely poisonous chemical.4

What’s important to remember is that ALL secondhand smoke should be avoided, no matter where it comes from. If you think you and your family are being exposed to secondhand smoke at home, you can find support and resources at Protect Your Family.

To find out what your city is doing to protect your community from toxic secondhand smoke visit and enter your city’s name.

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