Secondhand smoke (SHS), also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or passive smoke is a mixture of two forms of smoke that comes from burning tobacco:

  1. Mainstream smoke is smoke that is exhaled by a smoker
  2. Sidestream smoke is smoke that comes from the burning end of a lighted cigarette, pipe, or cigar, which is held in the hand or kept down on the ashtray.

It is different from the cigarette or tobacco smoke that is inhaled by the smoker. Secondhand smoke

Passive smokers are most exposed to secondhand smoke at homes and places of work. This exposure is also seen happening at places such as restaurants, bars, casinos, and cars.

The fact remains that the effects of secondhand smoke on the nonsmoking population are far more widespread than people generally believe. These statistics also emphasize the need to make our homes, workplaces and public places smoke-free.

A smoker should not smoke but if he has to, he might as well limit the dangers of smoking to himself only and not to others around him.

Secondhand smoke (SHS) is dangerous and the passive smoker involuntarily faces the same dangers to health as a smoker himself.

The association between SHS and several health diseases, such as respiratory tract infections, lung cancer, asthma, and ischemic heart disease has long been documented.

This established data is highlighted by the fact that since 1964, about 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health troubles that were due to secondhand smoke exposure.

Another fact that raises fears about SHS is that there is no safe risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Even a short-time exposure is enough to cause damage to your health.

Yet, most countries have not yet enforced 100% smoke-free public health regulations. Therefore, 93% of the world’s population stands exposed to SHS dangers.

Statistics

If you have read about the dangers of passive smoking on health, you will know that secondhand smoke adversely affects the brain, lungs, heart, skin, hair and more of the passive smoker.

Below are some statistics for the United States that explain and tell you how innocent nonsmoking people suffer from tobacco smoke.

  • Dangers of secondhand smoke are seen more at home and workplaces than public places – meaning that when you smoke, you put your dear ones, friends, and colleagues at a very high risk.
  • Approximately 11% of children aged 6 years and below are exposed to SHS in their homes on a habitual basis most days of the week. This puts them at a very high risk of its dangers.
  • 90 percent of the children are exposed to cigarette smoke primarily due to their parents. They stand susceptible to die early and suffer from middle ear syndrome, respiratory tract diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchial asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • About 46,000 deaths caused by heart disease due to secondhand smoke are reported every year in the United States and 4 million children are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes.
  • Approximately, 40% or 88 million nonsmokers (4 years and older) are being exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • About 53% of children between the ages of 3 to 11 years are at a high risk of secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Even a brief exposure to secondhand smoke is enough to put you to risk.
  • Nonsmokers who stand exposed are at 25% to 30% increased risk of getting heart disease.
  • Similarly, the risk of lung cancer is as high as 20% to 30%.
  • About 1,50,000 to 3,00,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia are reported every year in nonsmokers due to passive smoking.
  • Approximately 7,500 to 15,000 children below 18 years of age are admitted each year for health disorders caused by secondhand tobacco smoke.
  • Recent studies have concluded that women are more susceptible to DNA damage than men when exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Studies also conclude that after imposition of restrictions and no smoking zones, there was a marked decline in cases of heart diseases in those areas.

Comparison of secondhand smoke statistics for the last 20 years

  • From 1991 to 1998, 88% of nonsmokers were exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • In 1999 – 2006 this figure dropped to 53%.
  • In 2007 – 2008, about 40% nonsmokers were exposed to secondhand smoke.

These declining figures do tell of the growing awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoking.

Myths about secondhand smoking

Myth # 1: Secondhand smoke does not harm children

As much as a smoker would like to believe, his tobacco smoke has a profound effect on the children of all ages who are exposed to his exhaled and sidestream smoke.

Children who are habitually exposed to smoke suffer from frequent colds and respiratory tract infections such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. They also often have infections of the middle ear. Newborns and infants are highly susceptible to dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The irresponsible smoker has to seriously stop smoking and if he cannot, he should not endanger others with his SHS.

Myth # 2: Secondhand smoke does not cause heart disease

Studies estimate that 34,000 Americans die of cardiovascular disease every year because of exposure to secondhand smoke. This fact is established and documented.

These people who die in this fashion are victims of somebody else’s vices and this fact only emphasizes the need to educate people about this danger.

Myth # 3: Secondhand smoke does not cause cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.5 million people in the United States have succumbed to cancer-related illnesses caused by secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is known to cause breast cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, nasal sinus cavity cancer. Young children have developed brain tumors because of habitual cigarette smoke exposure.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen type, which means that it is a substance that is known to cause cancer in humans.

All these myths point to ignorance and this discrepancy needs to be corrected. It can be done if the countries of the world develop an aggressive educational campaign and implement it.