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Second Hand Smoking Facts You Should Know

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke that comes directly from a lit cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year in the United States. Smoking is one of the most common causes of preventable death in Canada. The American Lung Association estimates that there are 744,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year, and 183,000 people die from this disease because they were exposed to secondhand smoke while growing up.

Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer

Around 1,300 people die from lung cancer each year. That's about 6% of all lung cancer deaths in the United States. Every year more than 4,000 Canadians die from smoking-related illnesses such as lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Around half a million Americans die from heart disease due to secondhand smoke exposure each year. That's more than 7% of all heart disease deaths in the United States!

These numbers are staggering, but it's important to remember that they only represent people who have been directly exposed to secondhand smoke—and even then, they may not have had any symptoms at all!

As you can imagine, many people who live with someone who smokes will develop health problems later on in life because they were exposed while they were still young children or infants. If you think about how many times your parents smoked around you during childhood (or even as an adolescent), then multiply that number by years spent living under their roof, and suddenly things start looking pretty grim!

Secondhand smoke increased risk of Heart Disease

Secondhand smoke exposure is associated with an increased risk of heart disease in nonsmoking adults. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke that comes directly from a lit cigarette, pipe or cigar and the exhaled smoke by smokers. 90% of adults smoke cigarettes, and more than 40% of all U.S. homes have at least one smoker present, this means there are over 100 million people exposed to secondhand smoke every day!

Between 1964 and 2014, 2.5 million people died because of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is responsible for around 400,000 deaths each year.

This number includes both adults and children and expected that another 300 million people died from exposure to secondhand smoke over their lifetimes.

In the United States alone, 2.5 million people died, because of their exposure to secondhand smoke between 1964 and 2014; this means one in every five deaths was caused by secondhand smoke during that period!

Secondhand smoke can cause serious Illnesses

Secondhand smoke can cause illnesses and death in infants and children—including lung cancer, respiratory infections (including pneumonia), ear infections and asthma attacks. Secondhand smoke is a leading cause of childhood asthma, which affects more than half a million kids.

Children are more likely to suffer from asthma attacks, wheezing and other respiratory problems than adults because they breathe faster than adults. Their lungs are still developing at a rapid pace.

Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals

Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals, including more than 70 known to cause cancer. The number of chemicals in secondhand smoke is still being studied, but the risk of cancer from secondhand smoke is well established.

Here's what you need to know:

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, bronchitis, pneumonia and more frequent and severe asthma attacks.

  • SIDS is the sudden death of an infant younger than one year that cannot be explained after a complete autopsy and death scene investigation.
  • SIDS is the leading cause of death in children between 1 month and one year of age.
  • By adulthood, secondhand smoke increases lung cancer risk by 20%, heart disease risk by 30% and stroke risk by 45%.

Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmokers.

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke that comes directly from a lit cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled by smokers. It contains hundreds of chemicals, including more than 70 known to cause cancer (carcinogens).

Secondhand smoke has been linked to heart disease in nonsmokers. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that secondhand smoke causes 23% of lung cancers among nonsmoking adults and 18% among nonsmoking teens—and at least 90 other types of cancer as well!

Secondhand smoke is especially harmful for children

Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to young children because their bodies are still developing. Children also breathe more rapidly than adults, which increases the intake of harmful chemicals per unit of body weight.

The health effects of secondhand smoke have been well established in adults and children alike: it can cause lung diseases like bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia; heart disease; cancer; reproductive health issues including miscarriage and low birth weight; developmental problems such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children who live with a smoker may be at greater risk for these conditions due to exposure to both passive smoking as well as active smoking by parents who smoke around them.


If you smoke, the best way to help others is by quitting. If you can’t quit on your own, talk to a doctor or ask for help from a loved one. You may also want to consider getting rid of your cigarettes before they get into the hands of children.