Secondhand Smoke

Second hand smoke exposure is unhealthy. Exposure to second hand smoke (SHS) leads to illness and more emergency room visits for children with asthma. Other problems include increased respiratory infections, middle ear disease and increased frequency of ear infections and more severe asthma symptoms. Children are very susceptible to SHS due to their inability to avoid SHS and their higher breathing rate.

Second hand smoke comes from cigarettes, pipes, cigars and is in the air a smoker breathes out. It contains thousands of chemicals and many of these chemicals cause cancer. It is estimated that 3,400 nonsmokers die each year from lung cancer and 22,000 to 69,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease each year.

Smoking harms unborn babies and can lead to many health problems including miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight infants, SIDS and learning problems. Statistics show one third of all teenagers who smoke will die of a smoking related disease. Other harms to teens include nicotine addiction, chronic coughs, elevated heart rate, asthma exacerbations, lung problems increased blood pressure, fatigue and more respiratory infections.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded there is no safe level of SHS exposure. The importance of smoke free environments for children in and out of the home cannot be overstressed. Enclosed locations such as automobiles or small rooms place added stress and exposure on a child’s developing respiratory and immune systems.

For children, in home exposure is the primary source of SHS. Some states have enacted laws to prevent smoking in motor vehicles occupied by young children. Recently, in car exposure has dropped but a study from 2009 revealed that over one-fifth of non-smoking students reported SHS exposure in a motor vehicle in the week prior. Girls report higher SHS exposure than boys and this may be due to higher smoking rates among male students.

Smoking harms smokers and nonsmokers. Children, teens and adults who avoid smoke exposure live longer and are healthier and happier.