Skip to content

    Smoking Cessation Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    The Effects of Secondhand Smoke

    Being around tobacco smoke is bad for you, even if it's someone else's smoke.

    When someone smokes a cigarette, most of the smoke doesn't go into their lungs. It goes into the air, where anyone nearby can breathe it.

    Recommended Related to Smoking Cessation

    Understanding Nicotine Withdrawal -- the Basics

    Withdrawal from nicotine, an addictive drug found in tobacco, is characterized by symptoms that include headaches, anxiety, nausea, and cravings for more tobacco. Nicotine creates a chemical dependency so that the body develops a need for a certain level of nicotine at all times. Unless that level is maintained -- by smoking or chewing tobacco -- your body will begin to go through withdrawal. For tobacco users trying to quit, symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine are unpleasant and stressful -- but...

    Read the Understanding Nicotine Withdrawal -- the Basics article > >

    Smoking is banned in many public places. But many people are still exposed to secondhand smoke, especially children who live with parents who smoke. Even people who try to be careful about where they light up may not protect those around them.

    What Is Secondhand Smoke?

    It can come from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. Tobacco smoke has more than 4,000 chemical compounds, at least 250 are known to cause disease.

    Secondhand smoke makes you more likely to get lung cancer and many other types of cancer. It's also bad for your heart.

    Every year in the U.S., secondhand smoke causes about 34,000 deaths from heart disease and 7,300 deaths from lung cancer, the CDC says.

    Smoke makes your blood stickier, raises your "bad" LDL cholesterol, and damages the lining of your blood vessels. Eventually, these changes can make you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

    Dangers for Children

    Kids are particularly at risk for the effects of secondhand smoke because their bodies are still growing and they breathe at a faster rate than adults.

    These conditions have been linked to secondhand smoke exposure in children:

    Smoking during pregnancy is especially dangerous to the developing baby. It's tied to premature delivery, low birth weight, SIDS, limited mental ability, trouble with learning, and ADHD. The more cigarettes a mother-to-be smokes, the greater the danger to her baby.

    How to Avoid Secondhand Smoke

    It's simple: Avoid being around people who are smoking, and try to convince those around you who smoke to quit. Anyone who does smoke should do so outside, as far away from other people as possible.

    Your home is probably the most important place to keep smoke-free, especially if you have children. Keeping kids (and adults) far away from smoke can help lower their chances of having respiratory infections, severe asthma, cancer, and many other serious conditions.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 12, 2014

    Today on WebMD

    hands breaking a cigarette
    Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
    ashtray
    14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
     
    smoking man
    Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
    cigarette smoke
    What happens when you kick the habit?
     

    Filtered cigarettes
    ARTICLE
    an array of e cigarettes
    ARTICLE
     
    human heart
    ARTICLE
    Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
    ARTICLE
     

    man smoking cigarette
    ARTICLE
    no smoking sign
    VIDEO
     
    Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
    ARTICLE
    chain watch
    ARTICLE