No amount of Secondhand Smoke is safe
Each year 8,000 to 26,000 children will develop asthma as a result of a parent who smokes at least 10 cigarettes per day.
Each year 200,000 to 1,000,000 children have their asthma worsened by secondhand smoke.
Learn more about the myths and realities of secondhand smoke and the benefits of a smoke-free home. Download this Tobacco Stops with Me Smoke-Free Home Fact Sheet
What Is Secondhand Smoke?
- Secondhand smoke is the complex mixture formed from the smoke of a burning tobacco product and smoke exhaled by the smoker.
- This mixture contains over 4,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals and many of which are strong irritants.
How Is Exposure Measured?
- Secondhand smoke exposure can be assessed by measuring cotinine levels in the serum, urine, or saliva of smokers and non-smokers.
- Cotinine is a major metabolite of nicotine and is currently regarded as the best indicator of recent exposure in non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke and in active smokers.
What Is the Extent of the Problem?
- Although secondhand smoke is a health risk for everyone exposed, very young children may be especially vulnerable because their respiratory, immune, and nervous systems are still developing.
- According to a 2003 survey conducted by EPA, almost 3 million children (11%) aged 6 and under are exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis in their home.
- Exposure is significantly higher in households at or below the poverty level and in households with a lower educational level (less than college).
- Despite a 75% reduction in adult exposure to secondhand smoke in the past ten years, cotinine levels in children remain twice as high as for adults.
- Children with asthma may be especially vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke with as many as 1,000,000 children having an increased number of asthma episodes or increased severity of their symptoms.
- Children are most likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke in homes with smokers, but may also be exposed in other settings, such as in cars, daycare facilities, or restaurants.
What Is the Science Behind Secondhand Smoke?
Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1992
EPA’s formal risk assessment on the respiratory health effects of secondhand smoke in children and adults concluded:
- Middle-ear disease: Increased risk of fluid in the middle ear
- Asthma: Aggravation of symptoms in 400,000 to 1 million children
- Lower respiratory tract infections (e.g., pneumonia and bronchitis): An estimated 150,000-300,000 cases per year in children up to 18 months of age, with up to 15,000 requiring hospitalization
- Lung function: Small but statistically significant decrease
- Respiratory symptoms: Increased cough, phlegm, and wheezing
- Lung cancer: Classified secondhand smoke as a Class A human lung carcinogen
- Lung cancer deaths: An estimated 3,000 deaths per year
More information is available online at: www.epa.gov/nceawww1/ets/etsindex.htm
Health Effects of Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA), 1997
Cal EPA’s major conclusions:
- Middle ear infections: An estimated 700,000-1.6 million physician office visits per year for children under 3 years of age
- Low birth weight: Between 9,700-18,600 cases per year
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): An estimated 1,900-2,700 deaths per year linked to secondhand smoke
- Heart Disease: Between 35,000 and 62,000 deaths per year due to secondhand smoke exposure
Available online at: www.oehha.org/air/environmental_tobacco/index.html