The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

poster with the words Secondhand Smoke is Dangerous to Children

In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified secondhand smoke (also called SHS, environmental tobacco smoke, or ETS) as a Group A carcinogen, in recognition of the fact that it contains chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer in humans. That finding has been reinforced by numerous scientific studies and reports since, including the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report.

Since the release of the EPA’s groundbreaking 1993 report, the public health community and its partners have worked to raise public awareness about the cancer-causing chemicals in secondhand smoke and the risks tobacco smoke poses to everyone, especially children, the elderly, people with existing health conditions, and non-smokers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke exposure contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among non-smoking adults and 400 deaths in infants each year. Secondhand smoke causes stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease in adults. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms, and slowed lung growth. (Source: Smoking and Tobacco Use — Basic Information: Secondhand Smoke)

Knowing the dangers posed by secondhand smoke, public health advocates have worked with policymakers to enact regulations and laws to ensure that all residents are protected from exposure to the chemicals contained in the smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

Because of their efforts, Michigan now has a number of statewide laws that protect residents and visitors from being exposed to secondhand smoke while in public places and businesses. One of the most comprehensive is Public Act 188 of 2009, commonly known as Michigan's Smoke-Free Air Law.


Photo credit: The image shown at the top of this page is of a poster developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the 2006 Surgeon General's Report — The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke resource materials. Clicking on the image will take you to a larger version of the poster.