Secondhand smoke, also called Involuntary Smoking, Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), or Passive Smoke, is a combination of the smoke in the air from a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe, and the smoke exhaled by a person smoking.
Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 53,000 deaths annually in the United States alone, including 3,000 lung cancer deaths, more than 2,000 SIDS deaths and more than 35,000 deaths from coronary heart disease.(1)
Secondhand smoke is the third most preventable cause of death and disease in Colorado after active smoking and drinking.(2)
Just thirty minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can compromise the cardiovascular system of nonsmokers by reducing blood flow to the heart.(3)
Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including arsenic, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and radioactive elements. More than 60 of these chemicals have been identified as carcinogens.(4)
Secondhand Smoke has been identified as a Group A carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) like asbestos by the Environmental Protection Agency. There is no safe level of exposure to Group A carcinogens.(5)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program identified secondhand smoke as a carcinogen in their 2000 Environmental Health Information Service 9th Report on Carcinogens.(6)
Research shows that smoke-filled rooms may have up to six times the air pollution of a busy highway.(7)
Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 300,000 children under 1-1/2 years of age get bronchitis or pneumonia from breathing secondhand tobacco smoke; resulting is as many as 15,000 hospitalizations.(8)
What Does the Tobacco Industry Say About Secondhand Smoke:
A 1988 tobacco industry memo describes how Big Tobacco spent “vast sums of money” paying researchers to “stimulate controversy” regarding the science of secondhand smoke. The memo summarized a Philip Morris program to recruit scientists “who have no previous record on the primary issue” to conduct research “which apparently would then be ‘filtered’ by lawyers to eliminate areas of sensitivity.”(9)
(1) Centers for Disease Control. “Annual Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Economic Costs-United States, 1995-1999.” Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report, 51(14): 300-303, 2002.
(2) Glantz, S.A. & Parmley, W., “Passive Smoking and Heart Disease: Epidemiology, Physiology, and Biochemistry.” American Heart Association Circulation, 83:1-12, 1991.
(3) Otsuka, R., et al. “Acute Effects of Passive Smoking on the Coronary Circulation in Healthy Young Adults,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 286: 436-441, 2001.
(4) National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. “Cigars: Health Effects & Trends”, Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 9(3): 84-86, 1998.
(5) Environmental Health Information Service. “9th Report on Carcinogens,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program, 2000.
(6) Environmental Health Information Service. “9th Report on Carcinogens,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program, 2000.
(7) “Indoor Air Pollution, Tobacco Smoke, and Public Health”, J. L. Repace and A. H. Lowrey, Science 208: 464 (l980).
(8) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Setting the Record Straight: Secondhand Smoke is a Preventable Health Risk,” EPA-402-F-94-005, June, 1994.
(9) Vast Sums of Money to Keep the Controversy Alive – the 1988 BAT memo,” Tobacco Control, 6(3): 236-239, 1997.