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How does the smoke know where to stop?
Facts About Second-Hand Smoke

What is second-hand smoke?

Second-hand smoke is the smoke a smoker blows into the air and the smoke that drifts into the air from the burning end of a cigarette.

Why is it dangerous?

  • There are more than 7000 chemicals in second-hand smoke, including benzene, formaldehyde, and arsenic; at least 69 of these can cause cancer.
  • Smoke from the burning end of a cigarette has more harmful chemicals in it than the smoke inhaled directly by a smoker through a filtered cigarette.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.
  • Ventilation systems do not remove all the harmful chemicals found in second-hand smoke.
  • Going into another room or opening the window will not protect you from its harmful effects.
  • Outdoor levels of second-hand smoke within 1 to 2 metres of a lit cigarette can be as high as indoor levels.

How does second-hand smoke harm your health?

In Ontario, second-hand smoke exposure causes 3000 deaths per year. Second-hand smoke causes premature death and disease in adults and children.

In adults, exposure to second-hand smoke can cause:

  • heart disease
  • lung cancer

In adults, exposure to second-hand smoke has been linked to:

  • breast cancer
  • stroke
  • nasal sinus cancer
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • acute respiratory symptoms (cough, wheeze, chest tightness, difficulty breathing)
  • onset and worsening of asthma

How does second-hand smoke harm children?

In children, exposure to second-hand smoke can cause:

  • decreased lung function
  • low birth weight
  • bronchitis, pneumonia and other lower respiratory illnesses
  • worsening of asthma
  • middle ear disease

In children, exposure to second-hand smoke has been linked to:

  • childhood cancer (leukemias, lymphomas, brain tumors)
  • onset of asthma

Second-hand smoke is one of the major preventable risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) also known as crib death.

Second-hand smoke harms us all.... ACT NOW!

  • Avoid exposing your family and yourself to second-hand smoke.
  • Make your home and car smoke-free. Encourage your family and friends to do the same.
  • If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Call Durham Region Health Department for help to quit smoking or for information on how to make your home and car smoke-free.
  • Support your friends and family in their attempts to quit smoking.
  • Let business owners and elected politicians know that you appreciate outdoor smoke-free places, such as patios, entranceways, parks, playing fields and beaches.

For more resources and information on second-hand smoke, smoking legislation and quitting smoking contact Durham Health Connection Line at 1-800-841-2729 or 905-666-6241.

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (2005).
Environmental Tobacco Smoke. Position Document.

Kleipeis, N. et al. (May 2007). Real-Time Measurement of Outdoor Tobacco Smoke
. Stanford University, Stanford, CA.

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). (Feb. 24 2012). Smoke-Free
Ontario Strategy Update
. Ontario Medical Officers of Health, Tobacco Control

Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (2001). Protection from second-hand tobacco smoke in Ontario.

US Department of Health and Human Services (2010). How Tobacco Smoke Causes
Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General.