About Secondhand Smoke

Even if no one in your home smokes and none of your guests smoke in your home, if you are a renter in a building with many units, secondhand smoke can still enter into your home. Secondhand smoke can drift through:

  • Open windows and doorways
  • Shared air and heating vents
  • Electrical outlets
  • Cracks in plaster and sheet rock
  • Gaps around pipes and other structural openings

Everyone knows that smoking is harmful, but what many people don't realize is that secondhand smoke is extremely dangerous to the health of non-smokers.

About Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is a:

  • Group A carcinogen -- a substance known to cause cancer in humans for which there is no safe level of exposure.
  • Toxic Air Contaminant, putting secondhand smoke in the same category as the most toxic automotive and industrial air pollutants.
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds -- more than 40 of which are Group A carcinogens, which cause cancer in humans or animals.

Secondhand Smoke

· Causes lung and other cancers, and heart disease

· Causes or exacerbates respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, especially in infants, children and older persons.

· Causes increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome and middle ear infections in children.

· Is a major health threat to persons with asthma -- sometimes fatal.

· Cannot be controlled by ventilation, air cleaning or the separation of smokers from non-smokers. The only solution to this problem is to make buildings smoke-free.

Secondhand smoke causes:

· Burning of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, increases in the heart rate and blood pressure and upsets the stomach.

· 30 times as many lung cancer deaths as all regulated air pollutants combined.

· Nonsmokers who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work have almost double the risks of heart disease.

There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful. New studies showing the level of nicotine in house dust, the effects of secondhand smoke exposure on children, and on pet cats and dogs, provide further evidence of the health risks of secondhand smoke in the home.

For more information, see the Surgeon General’s Report on Secondhand Smoke, issued June 27, 2006.

Third Hand Smoke

Indoor tobacco smoke leaves behind a residue called “third hand smoke,” which is particularly dangerous to young children.

The residue clings to carpets, upholstery, and smokers themselves, and can contain heavy metals, carcinogens, radioactive materials, and other toxins. Children are especially susceptible to third hand smoke because they absorb or ingest this residue when playing on the floor or upholstery. Please see this New York Times article[CEFR3] [Aha4] about Third Hand Smoke.

What can you do about secondhand smoke?

You can encourage your loved one to quit, or if you are the smoker, you can seek free counseling. The Virginia Department of Health’s Quit Now Virginia is a toll-free tobacco cessation phone counseling service that is provided to Virginia residents aged 13 and older 24 hours a day, seven days. Callers will receive one-on-one cessation counseling, information and self-help materials. Call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).If you want your landlord to host cessation classes, just ask – the landlord may be able to get free services from the local hospital.

If you are not ready to quit smoking, please smoke outside.

Benefits of Smoking Outside

Smoking outside or quitting smoking will…

  • Protect your family and your neighbors from the deadly poisons in secondhand smoke
  • Prevent fires in your home
  • Reduce damage to your apartment…helping you get back more of your cleaning deposit
  • Help you avoid potential lawsuits by neighbors whose health has been damaged by secondhand smoke
  • Make you feel good because you are doing a good thing for your family and neighbors