Wildflowers bloom in the Sierra Nevada
Wildflowers bloom in the Sierra Nevada

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Secondhand Smoke

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a combination of the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke inhaled by a smoker.

Exposure to secondhand smoke occurs anytime a smoker smokes a cigarette, pipe or cigar inside an enclosed area or around another individual. It is dangerous because it contains over 4,000 deadly chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer, among other diseases.

Why should you be concerned about secondhand smoke exposure?

The Surgeon General report, 2006 states states that scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.

The newest Surgeon General's Report released in 2014 estimates that in the past 50 years 2.5 million people who don't smoke have died because they breathed secondhand smoke. This same report shows that secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, and at least 70 of them are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke causes 30,000 to 60,000 adult deaths each year from heart disease and an additional 3,000 non-smokers die from lung cancer each year.

What are the health risks for children exposed to secondhand smoke?

  • Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke because their lungs are still developing.
  • Exposure can cause asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. It can make colds and respiratory illnesses worse and increase the number of ear infections. Secondhand smoke has also been linked to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), miscarriages, and low birth weight.
  • Smoke-filled rooms can have up to six times the air pollution of a busy highway.

How Can I Protect Myself From Secondhand Smoke?

  • Make your car and home smoke free.
  • Avoid places where people are allowed to smoke, especially indoor locations with poor ventilation. Remember that even if a location has good ventilation it cannot remove all of the second hand smoke and there is no safe level of exposure.
  • Support businesses and locations that provide a 100% smoke free environment.