Secondhand Smoke


Health consequences for everyone

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by the smoker. When you stand near a smoker or go to a restaurant or home where smoking is allowed, you breathe secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is dangerous. There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Breathing secondhand smoke for a short time can hurt your body. Over time, secondhand smoke causes death and disease in kids and adults—even if they do not smoke.

  • Secondhand smoke causes cancer. It has more than 50 chemicals that are known to cause cancer in adults. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in people who have never smoked themselves.
  • Secondhand smoke causes heart disease. Even a short time in a smoky room has immediate harmful effects on the body. Breathing secondhand smoke makes it more likely that you will get heart disease, have a heart attack, and die early.
  • Secondhand smoke can cause breathing problems, like coughing, extra phlegm, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Babies and kids are hurt by secondhand smoke

Because their bodies are growing, the poisons in secondhand smoke hurt babies and young kids more than adults.

Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant are more likely to die from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) than babies who do not breathe secondhand smoke. Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are also more likely to die from SIDS.

Mothers who breathe secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have a baby weighing 5½ pounds or less. Babies who are born this small are weaker and have a higher risk for many serious health problems.

Babies whose moms smoke while pregnant or who breathe secondhand smoke after birth have weaker lungs than other babies. This increases their risk of many health problems.

Kids whose parents smoke around them get bronchitis and pneumonia more often.

Secondhand smoke causes kids who already have asthma to get more frequent and severe attacks.

Secondhand smoke causes lung problems, including coughing, too much phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness among school-aged kids.

Kids exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for ear infections. They are also more likely to need surgery to get ear tubes for drainage.

Learn how you can protect your family from secondhand smoke.

For more information, read:
NCI Factsheet, Secondhand Smoke: Questions and Answers
CDC, Secondhand Smoke What It Means To You

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