Secondhand Smoke

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The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

In 2006, the California Air Resources Board classified secondhand smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant – an  air pollutant which may cause or contribute to an increase in deaths or in serious illness, or which may pose a present or potential hazard to human health.

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar, and the smoke exhaled by smokers. People breathe in secondhand smoke when they are near others who are smoking.

There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, about 70 of which are known to cause cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General says there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, which is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults. Secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for approximately 46,000 premature deaths from heart disease and approximately 3,400 premature deaths from lung cancer each year among U.S. non-smokers.

Secondhand Smoke and Children

Because their bodies are still growing, the poisons in secondhand smoke hurt babies and young children more than adults. On average, children also tend to be exposed to secondhand smoke more than non-smoking adults are.  In children, secondhand smoke can cause the following health complications:

  • Ear infections;
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks;
  • Respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath);
  • Respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia); and
  • A greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of death in otherwise healthy infants.

Protect yourself and your family from these harmful effects by creating smoke-free environments. Don’t allow anyone to smoke near you or your child, and don’t smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or car. Be aware that opening a window or going into another room to smoke is not enough, because smoke can drift from one area into another.

Building a Healthier, Smoke-Free LA County
Today, smoking is no longer allowed in workplaces, in cars with passengers under age 18, at public parks or beaches, near playgrounds, in bars and restaurants, and, for several county cities, in outdoor dining areas.  Learn more about how LA County is working to eliminate places where residents may be exposed to secondhand smoke by visiting the Fresh Air Dining LA page and Multi-unit Housing page.

Featured Videos

Learn more about living healthy and tobacco free in LA County by watching these videos.

  • Smoke-free Cars with Kids
  • When You Smoke They Smoke
  • It's Like They're Smoking
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