Secondhand Smoke Kills

  • Secondhand Smoke Kills is also availalbe in Portable Document Format as a prointable two-sided tri-fold brochure (PDF, 2.65MB, 2pg)

There is no risk-free level of exposure to second - hand smoke. Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include heart disease and lung cancer.

Secondhand smoke – also known as environ - mental tobacco smoke – is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes:

  • Smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip
  • Smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the person or people smoking
  • At least 250 toxic chemicals, including more than 50 that can cause cancer

Most exposure to secondhand smoke occurs in homes and automobiles. Secondhand smoke exposure also continues to occur in public places such as building entryways, parks and beaches.

There is no risk-free level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.

Health Effects: Children

In children, secondhand smoke causes:

  • Ear infections
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath)
  • Respiratory infections
  • A greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

In the U.S. among children aged 18 months or younger, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for an estimated:

  • 150,000-300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year
  • 7,500-15,000 hospitalizations annually

Health Effects: Adults

In adults who have never smoked, second - hand smoke can cause heart disease and/or lung cancer.


  • For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk for heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk.
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home increase their heart disease risk by 25-30%.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.


  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to second - hand smoke at home increase their lung cancer risk by 20-30%.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.

If You Don't Smoke

No one, adult or child, should have to breathe someone else's smoke:

  • Don't allow smoking in your home or car, particularly if pregnant women, infants, young children or people with health and breathing problems are present. This includes family members, visitors, baby - sitters and others who work in your home.
  • Ensure that children learn and play in smoke-free environments. The New York State Clean Indoor Air Act bans smoking and New York Education Law bans all tobacco use (including pipes, cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco) on the grounds of all public and private pre-schools, nursery schools, elementary schools and secondary schools. Work with parent/ teacher associations, school boards and administrators to support these laws.

If You Smoke

First, try to quit. If you must smoke, there are things you can do to protect the people around you:

  • Don't smoke around pregnant women, infants and young children or people with breathing problems.
  • Keep your home smoke-free. Go outside to smoke.
  • Don't smoke in a car if there are others with you.

Think About Quitting

Finally, give serious thought to quitting. You'll feel better, and so will your family, friends and co-workers, and a lot of people you don't even know who are breathing your secondhand smoke. For help in stopping, call New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) It's a free confidential service to help you become smoke-free.