Secondhand Smoke: Meaning, Symptoms, Effects, Dangers of Passive Smoking

When it comes to smoking, there is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Not only is smoking terrible for your health, but it also negatively impacts the people around you—even if they don’t smoke themselves.

What is secondhand smoking?

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It is also known as “environmental tobacco smoke” (ETS) or “passive smoking.” Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including over 70 that can cause cancer.

There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be harmful. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure is to eliminate smoking in indoor spaces. 

Secondhand smoke exposure contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths each year, including: 

  • about 3,400 deaths from lung cancer in nonsmokers
  • about 34,000–69,000 premature deaths from heart disease in nonsmokers
  • Hundreds of deaths from other cancers

Secondhand smoke symptoms

When it comes to second-hand smoke, there are a few things to look out for. For starters, you might experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye irritation.

You might also have trouble breathing, and you may even cough up blood. If you’re exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis, you could also develop lung cancer.

So if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away.

Passive smoking effects

Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. 

It is estimated that there are more than 16 million Americans living with a smoking-related disease. 

Smoking kills more people than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, drugs, and gun violence combined. 

Despite these shocking statistics, many people continue to smoke and put others at risk of secondhand smoke exposure. 

Inhaling secondhand smoke can cause strokes, lung cancer, and other cancers of the head and neck. It’s also been linked to heart disease, reproductive problems, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Secondhand smoke exposure is especially harmful to children, who are more likely than adults to develop serious health problems from it. 

In children, secondhand smoke exposure can cause: 

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) 
  • Asthma
  • Ear infections 
  • Bronchitis, as well as pneumonia

The bottom line

Despite the well-known dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, many people continue to smoke, putting others at risk of exposure to harmful toxins. If you or someone you know smokes, take steps to protect yourself and others from the dangers of tobacco use.

There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.7. The only way to truly protect yourself and your loved ones from its harmful effects is to avoid it completely. If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do for your health and the health of those around you is to quit.


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