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Definition: secondhand smoke from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1976) : tobacco smoke that is exhaled by smokers or is given off by burning tobacco and is inhaled by persons nearby


Summary Article: Secondhand Smoke
from Encyclopedia of Addictions

Also known as environmental tobacco smoke, passive smoke, or sidestream smoke, secondhand smoke refers to the toxic mix of chemicals given off by burning tobacco products as well as the smoke that is exhaled by smokers. In this mix are carcinogens as well as particulate matter and noxious ingredients such as formaldehyde, cyanide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and nicotine. Many contribute not only to cancer but also to asthma and other respiratory diseases, allergies, heart disease, and cardiovascular disorders such as stroke. So potent are the chemicals in secondhand smoke that nonsmokers exposed to it on a regular basis have a 25 to 30 percent increased risk of developing heart disease or cancer. In children, secondhand smoke can cause severe forms of these diseases and even, in some cases, sudden infant death.

Beginning in the early 1990s, the National Cancer Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency began publishing findings about the dangers of secondhand smoke, and many local, state, and federal regulations were subsequently imposed to restrict smoking in public places to limit the amount of secondhand smoke to which other people can be exposed. Since that time, the U.S. Surgeon General and other federal authorities have not only verified the original studies but have provided compelling new evidence to document how damaging secondhand smoke can be.

See also Cigarettes; Cigars; Nicotine.

Further Reading

Federal Trade Commission. October 2007. Retrieved from http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/04/cigaretterpt.shtm

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), January 2008. Retrieved from http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/osh_faq

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), November 2007. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Cancer Institute (NCI): http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/tobacco

  • Califano, Joseph Joseph. Jr. High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It. New York: Perseus Books, 2007.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nicotine Addiction: A Report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Service, Center for Health Promotion and Education, Office on Smoking and Health, 1988.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Targeting Tobacco Use: The Nation's Leading Cause of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2003.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of Applied Studies. DHHS Publication No. SMA 07-4293, 2007.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research Report Series: Tobacco Addiction. NIH Publication No. 06-4342, July 2006.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1992.
  • Copyright © 2009 by Greenwood Publishing Group

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