Secondhand smoke, as it is commonly referred to, is the combination of mainstream smoke (smoke emanating from the mouthpiece end of a cigarette or exhaled from the lungs) and sidestream smoke (smoke emanating from the ignited end of a cigarette). Secondhand smoke contains 250 toxic chemicals including 60 known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).1 The act of inhaling secondhand smoke is sometimes referred to as involuntary or passive smoking.
Approximately 3,400 non-smokers die each year from lung cancer caused by exposure secondhand smoke reports the California Environmental Protection Agency.2 Between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months are caused each year by secondhand smoke. Of those cases, as many as 15,000 children require hospitalization.3
In recent years, smoke-free legislation has greatly increased the number of public places, including workplaces, which are now smoke-free. Below are some additional resources for information about secondhand smoke.
- National Toxicology Program. 11th Report on Carcinogens, 2005. Research Triangle Park, NC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2000.
- California Environmental Protection Agency. Proposed Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant. Final report, September 29, 2005, approved by Scientific Review Panel on June 24, 2005.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Smokefree Homes, Nov. 20, 2007.