|American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2003. Atlanta, GA.
SECOND HAND SMOKE
Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or passive smoke, is a mixture of two forms of smoke from burning tobacco products:
- Sidestream smoke: smoke that comes from a lighted cigarette, pipe, or cigar
- Mainstream smoke: smoke that is exhaled by a smoker
When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke it is called involuntary smoking or passive smoking. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke absorb nicotine and other compounds just as smokers do. The greater the exposure to secondhand smoke, the greater the level of these harmful compounds in your body.
Why Is It a Problem?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen, which means that there is sufficient evidence that it causes cancer in humans. Environmental tobacco smoke has also been classified as a "known human carcinogen" by the US National Toxicology Program.
Secondhand tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds. More than 60 of these are known or suspected to cause cancer.
Secondhand smoke can be harmful in many ways. In the United States alone, each year it is responsible for:
- An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are not current smokers
- About 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmoking adults
- Other respiratory problems in nonsmokers, including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, and reduced lung function
- 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months of age, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations
- Increases in the number and severity of asthma attacks in about 200,000 to 1 million asthmatic children
The 1986 US Surgeon General's report on the health consequences of involuntary smoking reached 3 important conclusions about secondhand smoke:
- Involuntary smoking causes disease, including lung cancer, in healthy nonsmokers.
- When compared with the children of nonsmoking parents, children of parents who smoke have more frequent respiratory infections, more respiratory symptoms, and slower development of lung function as the lung matures.
- Separating smokers and nonsmokers within the same air space may reduce, but does not eliminate, the exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.
Where Is It a Problem? There are 3 locations where you should be especially concerned about exposure to secondhand smoke:
Your workplace: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), recommends that secondhand smoke be considered a potential occupational carcinogen. Because there are no known safe levels, they recommend that exposures to secondhand smoke be reduced to the lowest possible levels.
For more information, or to request testing in your workplace,
go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/Request.html
Aside from protecting nonsmokers, workplace smoking restrictions may also encourage smokers who wish to quit or reduce their consumption of tobacco products.
Public places: Everyone is vulnerable to secondhand smoke exposure in public places, such as restaurants, bar, shopping centers, public transportation, and schools. Businesses across the nation are discovering that smokefree air is a win-win decision: it is great for health and great for business. All credible evidence shows that smokefree indoor policies have either no economic impact or a positive one on business.
Ventilation: Ventilation is offered by the tobacco companies and the gaming industry as a viable alternative to going 100% smokefree, when, in fact there is no ventilation or other air cleaning technology that can completely eliminate all the health risks posed by secondhand smoke. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the international standard-setting body for acceptable indoor air quality, agrees, as do all cognitive health authorities, and numerous air filtration retailers and manufacturers.
Please see the following for more detailed information:
ASHRAE Position Document, http://www.ashrae.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/46296
Visual Summaries of IAQ/Cotinine Studies,
Americans for Nonsmokersí Rights for additional ETS information
Cal-EPA reports on risk of breast cancer
CDC warning to nonsmokers