Second-hand smoke affects virtually
everyonewhether at home, at work, at school, in restaurants, theaters or
bars. Second-hand smoke is a proven health threat to the young and old, from
all walks of life, in all areas of this country and the world.
What is second-hand smoke?
Second-hand smoke is the smoke that individuals
breathe when they are located in the same airspace as smokers. It is a complex
combination of more than 4,000 chemicals. It includes irritants and systemic
poisons such as hydrogen cyanide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and
formaldehyde. It also contains 43 known carcinogens and mutagens such as
arsenic, chromium, nirtosamines and benzo(a)pyrene. Many of the chemicals, such
as nicotine, cadmium and carbon monoxide, damage reproductive processes.
Second-hand smoke is a major indoor air pollutant. It has been classified by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a "class A" or human
carcinogen for which there is no safe level of exposure.
How does second-hand smoke affect my health?
Non-smokers who breathe second-hand smoke
suffer many of the same diseases as regular smokers. Heart disease deaths as
well as lung and nasal sinus cancers have been causally linked with second-hand
smoke exposure. Exposure of non-smoking women to second-hand smoke during
pregnancy reduces fetal growth, and postnatal exposure of infants to
second-hand smoke greatly increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
(SIDS). Tobacco smoke also causes immediate effects such as eye and nasal
irritation, headache, sore throat, dizziness, nausea, cough and respiratory
What effect does second-hand smoke have on
Second-hand smoke causes a wide variety of
adverse health effects in children, including bronchitis and pneumonia,
development and exacerbation of asthma and middle ear infections. Children's
lungs are smaller and their immune systems are less developed, which make them
more likely to develop respiratory infections triggered by second-hand smoke.
Because they are smaller and breathe faster than adults, they breathe in more
harmful chemicals per pound of weight than an adult would in the same amount of
time. Finally, children have less choice than adults. Infants and children
cannot ask to leave a smoke-filled room if they want to.
Studies of the health effects of second-hand
smoke on children found that exposure to tobacco smoke--
- Causes an increase in bronchitis, pneumonia
and other respiratory illnesses.
- Causes both acute and chronic middle-ear
infections. A 1996 study suggested that 13 percent of ear infections in the
United States were caused by tobacco smoke.
- Triggers asthma attacks in children who
already have asthma and some researchers have concluded that it actually
induces asthma in healthy children.
What is the best way to eliminate
At home--The best place to begin the fight
against second-hand smoke is right in your own home. Make your home smoke-free.
Let your loved ones and visitors know that you care about their health and your
own. Place signs reminding your guests that they are in a smoke-free area.
At workAdvocate for smoke-free
workplaces. If your own workplace is not yet smoke-free, contact employee
groups, management, building owners, etc., and let them know how smoking
restrictions at the workplace can benefit everyone. There are many good reasons
for protecting employee's health and creating workplaces free from second-hand
- Employee health, productivity and morale is
higher in a smoke-free workplace.
- Smoking restrictions encourage some employees
to smoke less or even quit smoking altogether, leading to lower absenteeism,
lower health care costs and increased productivity.
- Smoke-free workplaces mean reduced cleaning
costs, less damage to furniture and equipment, and a lower risk of fire.
- Smoke-free workplaces often reduce the risks
from other industrial hazards, particularly from chemical products. In many
workplaces, smoking is a serious fire and safety hazard.
- Smoke-free workplaces can help employers avoid
smoking-related worker's compensation claims.
In the communitySupport local smoke-free
businesses and restaurants and encourage establishments that are not yet
smoke-free to adopt a smoke-free policy. In Illinois, more than 2,500
restaurants have joined the Illinois Smoke-Free Restaurant Recognition Program
sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health and local health
departments. Locations of smoke-free restaurants in your community can be found
on the Department's Web site If your favorite restaurant isn't smoke-free, let
the owner know that the chef's specialty would taste even better without
More information about second-hand smoke can be
obtained by contacting the following organizations:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion
Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery