What is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke, includes both the smoke that is exhaled by a smoker and the smoke that emits from the burning end of a lit cigarette.
Exposure to secondhand smoke occurs anytime a smoker smokes any tobacco product, including a cigarette, pipe or cigar, inside an enclosed area or around another individual.
Why should you be concerned about secondhand smoke exposure?
Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, and at least 60 of them are known to cause cancer (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
Exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer and heart disease in non-smoking adults. In fact, an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and more than 35,000 heart disease deaths occur each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]).
Unfortunately, virtually everyone faces some risk of harm from secondhand smoke exposure. In CDC study, 99 percent of nonsmokers were found to have measurable amounts of cotinine- a chemical the body metabolizes from nicotine- in their bodies.
People with chronic conditions are more likely than healthy people to suffer when exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can aggravate allergies, symptoms of asthma and cause other respiratory and lung conditions in nonsmokers.
Most people spend 90 percent of their time in two types of environments- home and work. The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act has drastically reduced the amount of exposure many Nevadans receive at work, with 8.4 percent of people reporting exposure to tobacco smoke on the job at least one day a week in 2008 compared with over 40 percent in 2005.
Unfortunately, there are still many people working in casinos and other exempt locations who are exposed daily to secondhand smoke. Additionally, nearly one quarter (23 percent) of Nevada adults still report secondhand smoke exposure at home in 2008.
For any environment, the harm from secondhand smoke depends on time spent in the environment and the amount of smoke in that air space. Smoke-free workplace laws and voluntary smoke-free home pledges help to reduce the health risks of secondhand smoke.
What are the health risks associated with children being exposed to secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke exposure is especially dangerous to children because their lungs are still developing.
Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of developing asthma and lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as increasing the frequency of asthma episodes and the severity of symptoms in asthmatic children.
An estimated 8,000- 26,000 new asthma cases in children each year and between 150,000 and 300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children aged less than 18 months are associated with secondhand smoke exposure. Another 200,000 to 1 million asthmatic children have their condition worsened by exposure to secondhand smoke.
Children who breathe secondhand smoke also tend to have more ear infections (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
Babies exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and pregnant women regularly exposed are more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies. In fact, secondhand smoke exposure in pregnant women can be as damaging to the fetus as if the mother were inhaling the smoke directly from a cigarette.
What should you, as a parent, do for the health of your children?
Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard to adults and children alike. It’s the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing an estimated 53,000 nonsmokers each year. In fact, smoke-filled rooms can have up to six times the air pollution of a busy highway (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
First and foremost, know that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure (U.S. Surgeon General, 2006). Protect your children and your family by making your home and car smoke-free.
If you smoke, choose to do so outside and never inside your home or car. And don’t permit others to smoke inside either. Don’t smoke inside, even when children are not present. Studies reveal that even if there is not active smoking in the house while children are present, smoke can linger in an enclosed area (like a house or car) for up to seven days after a person has smoked.
Print your Smoke-Free Home Declaration today. PDF (143 KB)