Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke

By Meghan Bailey on Nov 7, 2017

Just because you don't smoke doesn't mean your lungs are safe. According to the American Lung Society, secondhand smoke is a severe health hazard, causing more than 41,000 deaths per year.

Secondhand smoke can cause or make worse a full range of damaging health effects in children and adults, including lung cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma.

Some key facts surrounding secondhand smoke may shock you. Secondhand smoke causes more than 7,000 deaths from lung cancer and more than 33,000 deaths from heart disease each year. Secondhand smoke can also cause stroke and increase your risk of having a heart attack. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene and arsenic ammonia among others. 

It is time to speak up about secondhand smoke. While doctors routinely ask their patients if they smoke, they may not always ask if their patients work or live with someone who smokes on a regular basis. By speaking up and letting your doctor know that you have regular contact with secondhand smoke you can arm them with the knowledge to test for secondhand smoking diseases with more intent. This is particularly the case for children who have young lungs and bodies that are still developing. Secondhand smoke in children raises their risk for ear infections, asthma attacks, lung infections, coughing and wheezing, heart disease and cancer. 

While it may be uncomfortable to ask someone to not smoke near you, it is worth it for your health. If you or someone you know is looking to quit smoking, visit for additional resources and support.


  • Don't allow anyone to smoke in your car.
  • Avoid bars and restaurants where smoke is allowed, including vaping.
  • If someone starts smoking around you, ask them to move, or move somewhere cleaner yourself.
  • Ask those who smoke to not smoke at your home.
  • If you live in an apartment or condominium building, talk to the management to create smoking only areas so central public spaces can stay clean and smoke-free.