Second-hand Smoke...things to know


November 30, 2020

Second-hand smoke is the main way that smokers can harm non-smokers from their habit – given that we all will have at least a few friends, family, colleagues, neighbours or acquaintances that do not smoke, it’s worth knowing some of the basics of second-hand smoke, so at the very least, we can minimize the dangers to others.

What is it?

Second-hand smoke is the smoke that is created from the burning of cigarettes, pipes, cigars…basically smoke from any tobacco related product. It is also the smoke that is exhaled or breathed out by the smoker after the inhalation, which can linger in the air up to 2-3 hours. So, when a non-smoker is around someone smoking, they are passively smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke.

Source: Cancer Research UK

How can it be dangerous?

Second-hand smoke contains thousands of toxic cancer causing chemicals and much of the time can be invisible; people that regularly breathe in second-hand smoke have been found to develop serious health conditions, many of them similar to that of regular smokers, such as lung cancer and heart disease (US Centre for Disease Control). Other issues associated with passive smoking include breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Second-hand smoke is especially dangerous for pregnant women, children and babies as they have less developed lungs and airways. For example:

- Mothers who breathe second-hand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have babies with low birth weight

- Babies who breathe second-hand smoke after birth have more lung infections than other babies.

- Second-hand smoke causes kids who already have asthma to have more frequent and severe attacks.

- Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections and are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).


How can the dangers be minimized?

Naturally, the best thing one can do to limit the dangers is to quit smoking – the best decision for you and your loved ones. But if you’re not ready to quit just yet, it’s worth considering the following:

- Always smoke outside - make sure the house and car remain smoke-free (kids breathe in the most second-hand smoke when at home more than any other place)

- Make sure visitors / other smokers smoke outside

- Avoid indoor spaces (on confined outdoor spaces) when smoking with non-smokers


For more information about second-hand smoking, visit

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