Second hand smoke

General Information:

  • Secondhand smoke is a mixture of:
    • Mainstream smoke (smoke exhaled from the lungs of a smoker) and sidestream smoke (smoke given off by the burning end of a lighted cigarette, pipe or cigar).
  • Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
  • Passive smoking is when nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke
    • Puts nonsmokers at a high risk for developing adverse health problems such as cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma. (
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances

Where It Is a Problem:

  • The Workplace – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has classified secondhand smoke as a potential cancer-causing agent.
    • Recommendations for restrictions on workplace exposure have been put in to effect to help reduce the environmental risks that are caused by secondhand smoke.  (
  • Public Places – including restaurants, shopping centers, schools, public transportation and many more; puts everyone at risk for potential side effects of secondhand smoke.
    • Major concern for children being exposed to the toxins of smoke.
    • It’s up to a particular business to choose if they want to be a smoke free environment or not. (
  • At Home – smoking in the home can cause major health risks to other family members.
    • Most of a person’s time is spent at home
    • The choice to have a smoke free home is extremely important for the health of loved ones
    • Benefits of a smoke free home:
      • Your home will smell much better
      • Food will taste better
      • Less time, energy and money will be spent cleaning
      • Some insurance companies will lower insurance rates
      • Your pets will be happier and will have a reduced risk of getting lung cancer (

Health Risks Specific to Children:

  • Children are at a higher risk for developing adverse effects from secondhand smoke because their bodies are still developing physically.
    • They have higher respiratory rates, and less control over their environments.
  • Adverse health effects that are affecting children today include:
    • Asthma in children who previously did not have symptoms
    • Increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia or bronchitis), and middle ear infections. (
  • Major findings from a survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2004, on Children’s Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke:
    • 90 percent of the responsibility for children’s exposure to ETS is from a parent who smokes.
    • Exposure to ETS on a regular basis in households has gone down from 20 percent in 1998 to 11 percent in 2004(

What is Being Done About Secondhand Smoke:

  • Cooperation from local, state and federal governments is needed to enact laws that will protect all people from the harmful side effects of secondhand smoke.
    • Virginia, specifically, has implemented restrictions on smoking in public places and governmental buildings.  (
  • There are no safe levels of secondhand smoke
  • Policies should be strict and put into action immediately.  (
  • Healthy People 2010 addresses several issues related to secondhand smoke and the use of tobacco.
    • One objective is to reduce nonsmoker exposure to secondhand smoke from 65% to 45% nationwide by 2010.  (


  • Virginia’s statistics on smoking for 2005:
    • 22.1 % of adults smoke
    • 9,177 die each year from direct smoking
    • 8,590 pregnancies and births are affected by smoking $1.629 million is spent on direct smoking-attributable medical expenditures

Tips on Staying Away from Secondhand Smoke:

  • Stay away from areas that you know are populated with cigarette smokers.
  • Make sure your children are in environments that are protected by smoking laws.
  • Encourage loved ones to either quit or smoke in a designated area.
  • Get involved in your community to help encourage laws against smoking.

Other Related Links on Smoking:
Article on helping reduce secondhand smoke in Central Virginia
National Institute of Health and the National Library on Medicine
Article on the need for a smoke-free workplace law in Virginia
Programs to help you quit smoking today
Program for a smoke-free home
More tips on how you can help create a smoke free environment
Developed by:  Kristen Hughes

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