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The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke (SHS) causes illnesses, disease, and even death among those who may never even use tobacco products.  Adopting and implementing a tobacco-free policy not only helps to save the lives of smokers and other tobacco users but also protects the rest of the campus community who may be at risk for secondhand smoke exposure.

SHS is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes:

  • Smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip
  • Smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the person or people smoking
  • More than 4,000 chemicals; many of these chemicals are toxic and class “A” carcinogens such as: formaldehyde, benzene, lead, chromium, ammonia, toluene, and carbon monoxide (USDHHS, 2006).

Most exposure to SHS occurs in homes and workplaces.

Secondhand smoke exposure also continues to occur in public places such as restaurants, bars, and casinos and in private vehicles.  It is important to understand the dangers of secondhand smoke to understand the importance of protection nonsmokers.  Other important SHS facts include:

  • There is no safe amount of SHS (USDHHS, 2006)
  • About 39% (1.2 million) of adults in Georgia have been exposed to SHS within the last seven days. (Georgia SHS and Heart Disease Data Summary, 2012).
  • SHS kills and causes immediate harm to non-smokers (USDHHS, 2006)
  • Over 49,000 Americans die each year due to exposure to SHS primarily from heart disease and lung cancer (CDC, 2013)
  • About 1,430 Georgia adults each year die due to exposure to SHS. (MMWR, 2009)
  • Everyone has the right to breathe clean air; no-one has the right to adversely impact another’s health by exposing them the SHS (Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, 2013).
  • Additionally, the ACHS has also recognized the dangers of SHS and as such, has encouraged all colleges and universities to promote a smoke or tobacco-free environment. (ACHA, 2011b).