A Report of the Surgeon General
In December 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Surgeon General's Office released a report detailing the harmful effects of tobacco use. This report contains important new information on how tobacco smoke causes disease and explains why it is crucial to stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
To learn more, download the full report or the executive summary:
- Full report
How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General
- Executive summary
How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General—Executive Summary
What is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe and the smoke exhaled by smokers.1
There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. It has more than 7,000 toxic chemicals, including more than 70 known to cause cancer. Below are just a few of the chemicals and their common uses:1
|Formaldehyde||-||Used to embalm dead bodies|
|Benzene||-||Used in gasoline|
|Hydrogen Cyanide||-||Used in chemical weapons|
|Cadmium||-||Used in making batteries|
|Arsenic||-||Used in pesticides|
See this infographic about the health effects of secondhand smoke.
Each year in the United States, an estimated 3,400 non-smokers die from lung cancer and 46,000 die from heart disease caused by secondhand smoke. A non-smoker's health is affected every time that he or she is exposed to secondhand smoke. Consider the following facts:
- Non-smokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke can develop hardening of the arteries 20 percent faster than people not regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.2
- Only 30 minutes of exposure causes blood vessel changes similar to that of regular smokers. This can reduce the ability of the heart to receive life-giving blood.3
- Non-smokers can also have breathing problems, like asthma, bronchitis, coughing, phlegm and chest discomfort from breathing secondhand smoke.1
- Breathing secondhand smoke causes irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.1
Effects on Children
- Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke get more ear infections and chronic respiratory illnesses.1
- Secondhand smoke can cause sore throats, croup, asthma, bronchitis, ear infections and reduced lung function.1
- Children exposed to secondhand smoke in the home experience more days of missed school every year than those not exposed.4
- Children are more at risk for lung irritation like coughing, excess phlegm and wheezing.1
- Secondhand smoke can cause children with asthma or allergies to have longer and worse attacks.5
Effects on Babies
- Breathing secondhand smoke is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).1
- Secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lung infections in children younger than 18 months of age. This results in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year.1
- Secondhand smoke causes low birth weight and lung problems in infants.1
Effects on Spouses
- Secondhand smoke is hazardous to everyone's health.1
- Nonsmoking women who live with a spouse who smokes have a 20 percent greater risk of developing lung cancer.6
Effects on Pets
- Secondhand smoke is linked to negative health effects on household pets.7
- Cancer in cats is linked to secondhand smoke. Cats that live with people who smoke are more than twice as likely as other cats to develop cancer.6
Last Updated: 10/09/12
This Web site contains information on the revised Clean Indoor Air Act (RCW 70.160). It is not legal advice. This information cannot be considered as a substitute for legal advice from and representation by a qualified attorney.
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