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.

View How Smoking Affects Your Looks and Life Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSecondhand Smoke Pictures Slideshow: The Dangers and Effects

Secondhand Smoke Pictures Slideshow: The Dangers and Effects

What can be done about secondhand smoke exposure?

Local, state, and national governments have enacted a variety of laws designed to protect people from health dangers associated with secondhand smoke. These laws vary according to location. The American Lung Association has a listing of these regulations grouped by U.S. state (see References below). Legislation to prevent smoking in workplaces and public buildings is on the rise as the public becomes more informed about the risks of secondhand smoke.

Obviously, quitting smoking if you are a smoker is the best way to protect your family and friends from secondhand smoke. A number of support systems, programs, and even prescription medications are available to help smokers break the habit.

If you are a non-smoker, the safest way to avoid passive smoke is not to allow others to smoke in your home. This is particularly important if there are children in your home. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, smoke-free workplaces are the only way to protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace, since separate smoking areas, cleaning the air, and ventilating the building are not sufficient to prevent exposure if people still are permitted to smoke inside the building.

What is thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke exposure is a new concept; it is exposure to many of the toxic agents in smoke that have accumulated (as residue) in clothing, drapes, rugs, furniture, dust, and other items due to secondhand smoke. The toxic agents, deposited in and on items from secondhand smoke, can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes of non-smokers, especially by infants and young children. Prevention of secondhand smoke exposure can prevent thirdhand smoke exposure.

Medically reviewed by James E. Gerace, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Pulmonary Disease

American Cancer Society. "Secondhand Smoke."
<http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_2X_Secondhand_Smoke-Clean_Indoor_Air.asp>

American Lung Association. "Smoking restrictions in U.S. States."
< http://slati.lungusa.org>

National Cancer Institute. "Secondhand Smoke."
< http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/ETS>

Sleiman, M., Gundel, L., Pankow, J., et al. "Formation of carcinogens indoors by surface-mediated reactions of nicotine with nitrous acid, leading to potential thirdhand smoke hazards." PNAS; doi:10.1073/pnas.0912820107

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/15/2016
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