Secondhand Smoke

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Quick GuideEffects of Secondhand Smoke: Facts

Effects of Secondhand Smoke: Facts

Secondhand smoke and other effects on children

In addition to the risk of pneumonia and respiratory infections in babies exposed to secondhand smoke (see above), passive smoke is known to increase the severity of asthma in children with this condition. Middle ear infections in children are also occur as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Secondhand smoke and the effects on pregnant women

Like women who smoke, pregnant women who are exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk of having low-birthweight babies.

Secondhand smoke and the possible link to breast cancer

The question of whether or not passive smoking is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer is currently a source of both investigation and controversy. Breast cancer risk in active smokers is not known to be increased, yet some studies have found a possible link to breast cancer with exposure to passive smoke. In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General's report concluded that there is "suggestive but not sufficient" evidence of a link at this point.

Is there a safe level of secondhand smoke?

While, logically, more extensive or prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, is associated with greatest risk of having medical problems as a result, no safe limit for exposure to secondhand smoke has been established. Even low levels of secondhand smoke can be harmful. This means that all exposure to secondhand smoke should be avoided whenever possible.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/15/2016

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