Second and Third Hand Smoke

Cigarette smoke is toxic soup of more than 7,000 known chemical compounds. Secondhand smoke is composed of sidestream smoke (the smoke released from the burning end of a cigarette) and exhaled mainstream smoke (the smoke exhaled by the smoker). Tobacco smoke contains thousands of different chemicals that are released into the air as particles and gases. The particulate phase of cigarette smoke includes nicotine, “tar” (itself composed of many chemicals), benzene and benzo(a)pyrene. The gas phase includes carbon monoxide, ammonia, dimethylnitrosamine, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and acrolein. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are 69 known or probable carcinogens in cigarette smoke.

The scientific evidence on the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke is clear, convincing, and overwhelming.

Secondhand smoke (also referred to as involuntary smoking, environmental tobacco smoke, and passive smoking) is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, low birth-weight births, chronic lung ailments, as well as other health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer and heart disease attributable to secondhand smoke exposure.

Health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke

– U.S. Surgeon General (2010) – In the report, How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking Attributable Disease, The Surgeon General concluded that:
-- Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer.
-- Every exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer.
-- Exposure to secondhand smoke has an immediate adverse impact on the cardiovascular system, damaging blood vessels, making blood more likely to clot and increasing risks for heart attack and stroke.

– U.S. Surgeon General (2006) – In the report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, the Surgeon General concluded that:
-- Secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke.
-- Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
-- Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
-- The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

– Institute of Medicine (2009) – In a landmark report, Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concludes smoke-free laws reduce the number of heart attacks and save lives. The report also confirms that there is conclusive scientific evidence that secondhand smoke causes heart disease, including heart attacks. The IOM report was requested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the wake of a growing number of studies in smoke-free localities, states and countries that found reductions in heart attack rates after smoke-free laws are implemented. After a thorough review of the evidence, an IOM committee of scientific experts reached the following conclusions: The committee concludes that there is a causal relationship between smoking bans and decreases in acute coronary events. The evidence reviewed by the committee is consistent with a causal relationship between secondhand-smoke exposure and acute coronary events, such as acute MI (myocardial infarction). The committee concludes that it is biologically plausible for a relatively brief exposure to secondhand smoke to precipitate an acute coronary event.” According to the report, experimental studies have found that secondhand smoke exposure causes adverse changes in the cardiovascular system that increase the risk of a heart attack. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention also stated that studies conducted in several communities, states, and countries have found that implementing smoke-free laws is associated with reductions in hospital heart attack admissions. The CDC notes that, “smoke-free laws likely reduce heart attack hospitalizations both by reducing secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmokers and by reducing smoking, with the first factor making the larger contribution.” Based on earlier evidence, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously noted to all clinicians with patients who have a history of coronary heart disease that those patients “should be advised to avoid all indoor environments that permit smoking.” – World Health Organization (2007) – In its report, Protection From Exposure To Secondhand Tobacco Smoke – Policy Recommendations, the World Health Organization stated that: “Scientific evidence has firmly established that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke (SHS), a pollutant that causes serious illness in adults and children. There is also indisputable evidence that implementing 100% smoke-free environments is the only effective way to protect the population from the harmful effects of exposure to SHS.” Thirdhand smoke exposure Thirdhand smoke (THS) refers to the chemical residue left behind after smoking has stopped. THS clings to carpets, walls, toys, and other furnishings in a room. THS is also found on clothing worn by a smoker during smoking or nonsmokers when exposed to secondhand smoke and in other areas where smoking occurs such as vehicles. Thirdhand smoke can persist in an area for months or even years. THS contains some of the same chemicals as cigarette smoke and has many negative consequences on health. Research has shown: DNA damage Lung inflammation High blood sugar levels Hyperactive behavior Damaged cells in the respiratory system after just a few hours or exposure For more information on Thirdhand Smoke, visit the Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center.