Secondhand Smoke


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

What is secondhand smoke?

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.

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.

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 safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Is my health affected by secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in non-smoking adults and increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung problems.

Children, pregnant women, and the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are especially at-risk to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. On average, children also tend to be exposed to secondhand smoke more than non-smoker adults. In children, secondhand smoke can cause the following health issues:

  • Middle ear infections
  • Asthma with no previous symptoms 
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath)
  • Respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia)
  • A greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of death in otherwise healthy infants.

What can I do to prevent secondhand smoke?

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 the workplace, 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 Public Health is working to protect you from secondhand smoke: Multi-unit Housing webpage.

More Resources:
Tobacco Free CA
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Smoke-free Apartments Registry
California Air Resources Board
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights
Breathe California of Los Angeles County
Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles
Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles
California’s Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing: SmokeFree Housing
ChangeLab Solutions: SmokeFree Housing
Campaign for Smoke-Free Choice in Pasadena Housing
California Smokers’ Helpline