What are the risks of exposure to secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke causes disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children. Exposure to secondhand smoke irritates the airways and has immediate harmful effects on a person's heart and blood vessels. It may increase the risk of heart disease by an estimated 25 to 30 percent. In the United States, secondhand smoke is thought to cause about 46,000 heart disease deaths each year. There may also be a link between exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of stroke and hardening of the arteries; however, additional research is needed to confirm this link.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma. Being exposed to secondhand smoke slows the growth of children's lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze, and feel breathless.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Smoking isn’t just bad for you; it’s bad for the people around you. There is a clear link between secondhand smoke and heart disease. Smoking around your children can have especially severe health consequences. Children of smokers tend to have more lung illnesses, including pneumonia and bronchitis; may develop asthma; and are more likely to develop chest illnesses.

Secondhand smoke is a mix of gases and particles in the air from other people smoking. It contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic. About 70 can cause cancer.It has immediate harmful effects on your blood and blood vessels, which can raise your risk for a heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk for a heart attack. Secondhand smoke can also cause a stroke or lead to lung cancer.

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Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

Smoking tobacco products can lead to severe health problems and even death. While quitting smoking can be very difficult for some smokers, there are smoking cessation programs and medications that can help smokers quit. There are ...

many lifelong benefits of doing so, like increased lung function and decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. Understanding the importance of quitting smoking and all options available to help stop smoking is key to long-term success.

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.