Secondhand smoke is a first-rate killer

Secondhand smoke contains more than 43 cancer-causing agents and many other toxins, including formaldehyde, cyanide, carbon monoxide and arsenic. To learn more about the chemical content of secondhand smoke, click here.

Surgeon General’s 2006 Report warns that no amount of secondhand exposure is safe

Each year in the United States, secondhand smoke is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths and tens of thousands of coronary heart disease deaths among people who have never smoked.


Secondhand smoke increases risk of heart disease and lung cancer

Key findings from the Surgeon General's report also reveal that:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke at home or work increases a nonsmoker’s risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.
  • Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate negative effects on the cardiovascular system and interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, blood and vascular systems in ways that increase the risk of a heart attack.
  • As few as 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure can impair coronary circulation in a non-smoker.
  • Other studies show:

  • Constant exposure to secondhand smoke – in the workplace or home – nearly doubles the risk of having a heart attack, according to a landmark study of more than 32,000 women.

  • Women married to a smoker have a 91 percent greater risk of heart disease.

Secondhand smoke exposure harms children

  • If parents smoke around their children, the children can inhale the equivalent of 102 packs of cigarettes by age five.

  • It is estimated that in Oregon, approximately 167,000 children are exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

  • Nationwide, children exposed to secondhand smoke experience a total of seven million more days of missed school every year.

Secondhand smoke relates to many illnesses in children

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): The rate of SIDS is higher in babies exposed to secondhand smoke. SIDS is the second leading cause of infant deaths in Oregon.

  • Asthma: Children who grow up with smokers in the family are more likely to have asthma by the age of six than children living in non-smoking households.

  • Respiratory disease: The rate of bronchitis, pneumonia, colds and other respiratory infections is four times higher in children exposed to secondhand smoke than those living in smoke-free environments.

  • Secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months of age across the United States each year.

  • It is estimated that, in the United States each year, secondhand smoke exposure results in the hospitalization of 7,500 infants and 15,000 children due to lower respiratory tract infections.

Secondhand smoke in housing poses a special hazard

  • "Tobacco smoke travels from its point of generation in a building to all other areas of the building. It has been shown to move through light fixtures, through ceiling crawl spaces and into and out of doorways." John Howard, MD CalOSHA
  • 60% of air in three-story apartments infiltrates other units. James Repace, MSc
  • "Currently, the only way to effectively eliminate health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity." American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers
  • Secondhand smoke regularly enters the apartments of over a third of renters in the Portland-Vancouver metro area who live in multi-unit housing. Campbell-DeLong Resources Inc.
  • 92% of Washingtonians say breathing secondhand smoke is harmful. Washington Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • 84% of Oregonians agree that people should be protected from secondhand smoke
  • 73% of Washingtonians agree that the city or town where they live should establish as many strong rules and laws as possible to protect nonsmokers, including children, from secondhand smoke. Washington Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System