Damage of smoking

What can smoking do to my body?

Lung Cancer

Cigarette smoking damages cells. Cell damage can lead to tumors that start in the lungs. Then lung cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

COPD (Includes Emphysema and Bronchitis)

COPD, which stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a group of lung conditions. COPD makes it hard to breathe. It may get slowly worse as damage to the lung evolves.

If you stop smoking today… you can lower your risk of lung cancer, stroke and COPD.

Heart Disease

Cigarette smoking narrows the blood vessels and can cause the heart to work harder.

Cervical Cancer

Smoking is linked to cervical cancer.

If you stop smoking today, you can lower your risk of cervical cancer and help keep your heart healthy.

Secondhand Smoke

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke, involuntary smoke, and passive smoke) is the combination of smoke emitted from a burning tobacco product and the smoke exhaled by a smoker.

Exposure to secondhand smoke can occur in homes, cars, the workplace, and public places, such as bars, restaurants, and recreational settings. The source of most secondhand smoke in the U.S. is from cigarettes, followed by pipes, cigars and other tobacco products.

The amount of smoke created by a tobacco product depends on the amount of tobacco available for burning. The amount of secondhand smoke emitted by smoking one large cigar is similar to that emitted by smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.

How is secondhand smoke exposure measured?

Exposure to secondhand smoke can be measured by testing indoor air for nicotine or other chemicals in tobacco smoke. It can also be tested by measuring the level of cotinine (a by-product of the breakdown of nicotine) in a nonsmoker’s blood, saliva or urine. Nicotine, cotinine, carbon monoxide and other smoke-related chemicals have been found in the body fluids of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke.

Does secondhand smoke contain harmful chemicals?

There are 7,000 chemicals identified in secondhand tobacco smoke. 250 of those are known to be harmful such as hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia.

Nearly 70 of the toxic chemicals in secondhand tobacco smoke cause cancer. Some of these include:

  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Beryllium (a toxic metal)
  • 1,3–Butadiene (a hazardous gas)
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium (a metallic element)
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Nickel (a metallic element)
  • Polonium-210 (a radioactive chemical element)
  • Vinyl chloride

Other toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke such as Formaldehyde, Benzo(a)pyrene and Toluene are suspected to cause cancer as well.

Many factors affect which chemicals are found in secondhand smoke, such as the type of tobacco, the chemicals added to the tobacco, the way the tobacco product is smoked, and, for cigarettes and cigars, the material in which the tobacco is wrapped.

Does exposure to secondhand smoke cause cancer?

Yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen / cancer-causing agent.

Inhaling secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in nonsmoking adults. Approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases a nonsmoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

Some research also suggests that secondhand smoke may increase the risk of breast cancer, nasal sinus cavity cancer, and nasopharyngeal cancer in adults and the risk of leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors in children.

What are the other health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is associated with disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children. Exposure to secondhand smoke irritates the airways and has immediate harmful effects on a person’s heart and blood vessels. It may increase the risk of heart disease by an estimated 25 to 30 percent. In the United States, secondhand smoke is thought to cause about 46,000 heart disease deaths each year. The risk of stroke is greatly increased with smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke as well.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis and more severe asthma. Being exposed to secondhand smoke slows the growth of children’s lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze and feel breathless.

In children ages 18 months or younger, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for an estimated 150,000–300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year and 7,500–15,000 hospitalizations a year in the U.S.

What is a safe level of secondhand smoke?

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even low levels of secondhand smoke can be harmful. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to completely eliminate smoking in indoor spaces. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot completely eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.

What is being done to reduce nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke?

On the national level, several laws restricting smoking in public places have been passed. Federal law bans smoking on domestic airline flights, nearly all flights between the United States and foreign destinations, interstate buses and most trains. Smoking is also banned in most federally owned buildings. The Pro-Children Act of 1994 prohibits smoking in facilities that routinely provide federally funded services to children.

Many state and local governments have passed laws prohibiting smoking in public facilities, such as schools, hospitals, airports, bus terminals, parks and beaches, as well as private workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Some states have passed laws regulating smoking in multiunit housing and cars. More than half of the states have enacted statewide bans on workplace smoking.

To highlight the health risks from secondhand smoke, the National Cancer Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health, holds meetings and conferences in states, counties, cities or towns that are smoke free, unless specific circumstances justify an exception to this policy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020, a comprehensive, nationwide health promotion and disease prevention agenda, includes the goal of reducing illness, disability and death related to tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure. Currently, most Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke, and children are at greatest risk. For 2020, the goal is to reduce the proportion of people exposed to secondhand smoke by 10 percent. To assist with achieving this goal, Healthy People 2020 includes ideas for community interventions, such as encouraging the introduction of smoke-free policies in workplaces and other public areas.