Health Effects

Cancer-causing chemicals, Benzine, Vinyl Chloride, Polonium 210, FormaldehydeWhat is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is smoke from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes, as well as smoke that is exhaled by a person smoking. Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and approximately 70 of which are known to cause cancer.1 There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and ventilation and air purifiers cannot completely control or eliminate it.

Girl coughing into her armSecondhand smoke affects everyone around the person smoking. Babies are more likely to have weaker lungs and die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if they are around secondhand smoke. Children are more likely to develop lung problems, more frequent coughing and wheezing, ear infections and asthma.1,2Spouses and other adults also suffer when breathing in secondhand smoke. Nonsmokers who breath secondhand smoke are more likely to develop heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke.1,2It is estimated that secondhand smoke caused nearly 34,000 heart disease deaths each year during 2005-2009 among adult nonsmokers in the United States.1

  • Almost 3 million children in the United States under the age of 6 years old breathe secondhand smoke at home at least 4 days per week.2
  • Breathing in secondhand smoke at home or at work increases a person’s chances of getting lung cancer by 20-30 percent.2
  • More than 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke.3
  • Secondhand smoke exposure is higher among children ages 3-11 years old, blacks, people living below the poverty level, and those who rent housing.3


Reviewed 10/29/18