Secondhand Smoke Still Kills Tens of Thousands Every Year

Decline in exposure has stalled in the U.S.

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From 2013 to 2014, about 58 million non-smokers in the United States were exposed to secondhand smoke, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Progress in reducing this exposure has stalled despite decades of improvement, the CDC says.

Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke, comes from burning tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, or is exhaled by smokers. It can cause a number of health problems, even with brief exposure, according to the CDC. Information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey assessing cotinine levels in the blood, a marker of secondhand smoke, showed that exposure remains high in certain groups, including:

  • Children 3-11 years old (38 percent)
  • People living in poverty (48 percent)
  • People living in rental housing (39 percent)

As possible reasons why secondhand smoke exposure is still so persistent, the CDC report cites disparities in protections like comprehensive smoke-free laws and delays in the adoption of these laws. According to a 2014 Surgeon General report, secondhand smoke causes more than 41,000 deaths from lung cancer and heart disease in non-smoking adults and 400 deaths from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) each year in the United States.

Sourced from: CDC