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What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). It is the combination of two forms of smoke from burning tobacco products:
  • sidestream smoke, or smoke that is given off between the puffs of a burning cigarette, pipe or cigar
  • mainstream smoke, or the smoke that is breathed out (exhaled) by the smoker
When a cigarette is smoked, about half of it is sidestream smoke. This form contains essentially all of the same cancer-causing chemicals that have been identified in mainstream smoke, but at greater levels. Researchers estimate that secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers each year.
Randolph P. Martin, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Secondhand smoke consist of two components 1) side stream smoke, the smoke that comes from burning the tobacco product, and 2) mainstream, smoke which comes from the person blowing the smoke out in the air. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Randy P. Martin about secondhand smoke.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Secondhand smoke is all the smoke you get when you, yourself, do not smoke cigarettes.  Unfortunately, the typical hour of secondhand smoke is the equivalent to you smoking about 2-1/2 cigarettes yourself.  So, secondhand smoke is both addictive to you and damages your arteries, your immune system, and a lot of other things that we can measure.

Secondhand smoke, smoke that is passively inhaled, often by a spouse, young children, the elderly or anyone who comes into close, regular contact with a smoker, is estimated to cause approximately 50,000 deaths each year, in addition to 100,000-300,000 cases of pediatric bronchitis and asthma.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.