What is Secondhand Smoke?
Secondhand smoke (SHS), also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a mixture of smoke given off by the burning end of cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, and smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers that can be involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers. In 1986, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that SHS is a major health risk to nonsmokers. In 1992, SHS was classified as a Group A carcinogen, which is known to cause cancer in humans. SHS contains over 4000 chemicals including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, and benzene. Among the chemicals identified in cigarette smoke, 11 are known human carcinogens.
- Secondhand smoke factsheet (CDC)
- Protecting Hoosiers from Secondhand Smoke (ITPC)
Prevalence of secondhand smoke exposure
Twenty-one percent (21%) of all youth in middle school and twenty-six percent (26%) of all youth in high school are exposed to SHS at home or in another building every day. Sixty-three percent (63%) of all youth are exposed to SHS at home or in another building at least once a week. Thirteen percent (13%) of all youth in middle school and 15% of all youth in high school are exposed to SHS in a car every day. Forty-six percent (46%) of all youth are exposed to SHS in a car at least once a week. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of adult non-smokers live with a smoker. In 2002, nearly one quarter (24%) of all adults in the U.S. lived with a smoker. Approximately the same percentage. Twenty-three percent (23%) reported that someone had smoked in their home during the past week.
- Youth Exposure factsheet (ITPC)
The impact of secondhand smoke on infants and children
SHS exposure can be particularly damaging for infants and children, whose respiratory rates are higher than those of adults. In the first two years of life, children who are exposed to SHS from parental smoking have more than a 50% increased risk of getting bronchitis and pneumonia. Children and adolescents with at least one smoking parent have a 25 to 40% increased risk of chronic respiratory symptoms such as cough, wheeze and breathlessness. Among children ages 4 to 6 high levels of SHS exposure were associated with having asthma. Among school aged children, SHS exposure can cause new cases of asthma or worsen existing asthma.
- Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke factsheet (ITPC)
- Secondhand Smoke and Children factsheet (American Lung Association)
The impact of secondhand smoke on adults
Among adults, SHS exposure causes approximately 53,000 deaths a year. SHS exposure is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. SHS exposure is responsible for about 3000 lung cancer deaths annually in U.S. nonsmokers. Between 30,000 and 60,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease are attributable to SHS exposure each year.