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April 13th, 2011
05:42 PM ET

Is secondhand smoke really that risky?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the
American Cancer Society.

Question asked by David of Tampa, Florida

Really, how much secondhand smoke does a nonsmoker get anyway? If a person who smokes a pack a day for 30 years is only 1/3 more likely to die younger than a nonsmoker, then how likely is it that a nonsmoker is even more likely to die younger merely because other people smoke?

Expert answer:

Dear David,

I have to say I disagree with some of your risk assumptions. Smoking is always to be discouraged. I can think of no epidemic as devastating and preventable as that caused by tobacco consumption. Tobacco is the only product that I can think of that, when used as intended, causes premature death to at least half of its users. Smoking causes lung cancer, at least a dozen other cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease and lung disease.

Secondhand smoke, which is also called environmental tobacco smoke, is smoke inhaled involuntarily.

Secondhand smoke also causes lung cancer, heart and lung disease in non-smokers. There is no safe level of exposure, but long-term exposure increases risk of lung cancer by 10% to 15% and heart disease by 30%. This translates into 5,000 to 10,000 lung cancer deaths and 40,000 heart disease deaths each year in the United States. Worldwide, it is estimated that exposure to secondhand smoke caused 50,000 lung cancer deaths and 379,000 heart disease deaths in 2004.

Components of tobacco smoke such as carbon monoxide, nicotine, benzene and small particles can easily be measured in the air of a smoker's home or workplace. It is truly a form of indoor air pollution. These smoke byproducts can be measured in the blood and urine of nonsmokers exposed to them. This means they inhaled the byproducts and the byproducts got into their body.

Someone who is around a smoker inhales more benzene, a cause of leukemia, than he or she would inhale spending the same amount of time filling a car with gasoline.

We worry about exposure of children and especially young children who cannot get away from adult parents who smoke. Children are also destined to long-term secondhand smoke exposure. Secondhand smoke exposure causes eye irritation, asthma and other acute respiratory diseases and is thought to be a cause of infant crib death.

The initial studies showing that secondhand smoke is dangerous compared nonsmoking spouses of smokers with age-matched nonsmoking controls who were married to nonsmokers. The spouses of the smokers had a significantly higher risk of lung cancer. Also, a study of nonsmoking flight attendants who worked when smoking was allowed on aircraft had higher lung cancer rates than nonsmoking airline employees who did not work onboard. The tight confines of the airplane gave them especially heavy doses of secondhand smoke.

Numerous studies of secondhand smoke have been completed over the past 40 years. A meta-analysis of 52 studies prepared for the 2006 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health showed that nonsmokers who had long-term (more than 20 years) exposure to secondhand smoke were 1.21 times more likely to develop lung cancer compared with nonsmokers who were never exposed to secondhand smoke.

A second meta-analysis of 25 studies showed that nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke were 20% more likely to develop lung cancer compared with nonsmokers working in a smoke-free environment.

Interestingly, the biggest benefit from limiting secondhand smoke is from reduction in cardiac disease. It has been demonstrated several times that towns initiating laws limiting public and workplace smoking see in a decrease in heart attack rates within one year of enacting the laws.


soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Craig from Pa.

    And exhaust from gasoline/diesel motors spewing into the atmosphere causes no secondhand damage to our lungs like tobacco?? It has been a long hard ongoing battle to control the tobacco lobby and to try to outlaw smoking. If efforts to ban tobacco smoke ever fully succeed, how long will it take to bring down the oil lobby and outlaw that? I absolutely guarantee you that if you fill up a room with cigarette smoke and fill another room with exhaust from combustion engines, the people in the exhaust filled room will die quicker than those in the secondhand smoke filled room....I think this is an absolute fact, yet we don't hear too much about that!! Let's outlaw tobacco completely, thus eliminating deaths from secondhand smoke and then see how drastically death rates fall from the cause of lung cancer. I doubt that there would be much, if any reduction of those numbers!!

    April 13, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LC6624

      I agree with you....they ban smoking (and no I do not smoke) but then LEGALIZE SMOKING mariijuana for "MEDICINAL PURPOSE" LOL....I guess they suck back in their SECOND SMOKE WHILE THEY ARE DOING IT !!!

      April 14, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
    • bob

      I totally agree with you dude. i am a smoker and am very aware of the danger and exposure smoking does to myself and others around me.......but this article and no other articles that i read about cigarette smoking and seconhand smoke NEVER EVER mentions second-hand exhaust emmissions from gasoline/diesel motors spewing into the atmosphere as being a TOXIC CHRONIC HAZZARD to the health of myself and the public in general

      April 14, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
    • Chris in WI

      @LC6624

      The difference is studies show that if you have 3 groups; tobacco only smokers, marijuana only smokers, and a control group that smokes nothing, the group with the LOWEST rates of cancer are marijuana only smokers.

      http://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/news/20060523/pot-smoking-not-linked-to-lung-cancer

      I hate disinformation like this being spread like 'common knowledge'.

      Medical Science didn't exist in 1937 and the public was ignorant and didn't know the government was saying "marihuana" was evil so big business would not have to compete with industrial hemp. Guess what your grandma and grandpa bought it.

      It's not too late to read and fix this. Hemp was declared the first crop to have the potential to break $1Billion in a year by Popular Mechanics in Feb 1938. Too bad they didn't realize the government had just snuck legislation threw congress outlawing this fiber plant by changing it's name to "marihuana" and demonizing it with lies.

      So stop spreading this disinformation please.

      Read the connections between Wiliam Randolph Hearst, the Dupont Brothers, Mellon (the secretary of treasury AND richest man in the US at the time), and Rockefeller (and all their companies/banks/investments) and tell me the government was not hijacked to line their pockets.

      April 14, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
    • jbohdrider

      Chris-I have heard very few folks that are aware of the fact that big business was the reason that MJ was so vilified back in the day. The facts are that it was Dupont and Hearst that did the damage, Dupont wanted to sell Nylon rope and hemp made a superior product and Hurst had acres of wood pulp trees planted and wanted to insure a mareket. Another fact not often discussed is that hemp makes much better paper than wood pulp, for the natural resources used to grow the plants. Hearst and Dupont got together and came up with a marketing campaign to kill the evil weed. They used prejudice and sterotype to do that as well.

      April 14, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse |
    • charles s

      I agree that second hand smoke is terrible and should be prevented as much as possible. I remember being exposed as a kid to it and how my eyes and throat burned from it. I hated it. However I am totally against outlawing smoking because these drug prohibitions cause more problems than the original problem. Unless you are willing to impose such harsh penalties on smokers, it would become the next big money maker for drug smugglers.

      Only the Chinese communists were able to eradicate opium addiction by extremely brutal means. "After 1949, the Chinese Communist regime used a mix of unrestrained repression and social reform to eradicate the world's largest opium market. By the mid 1950s, highland opium areas had converted to new crops, dealers had been executed, and the country's estimated 10 million addicts has been forced into compulsory treatment." see http://www.opioids.com/opium/history/index.html

      Americans would never accept such brutal methods and so the War on Drugs is bound to fail; just like a war on smoking tobacco would fail. America should legalize drugs and give treatment to all addicts. In order to succeed in the War on Drugs, American civil liberties would have to be totally destroyed.

      April 14, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse |
    • KG

      First off, these laws only restrict smoking indoors and near entrances and exits to buildings. You are still free to smoke all you want outside.

      As for car exhaust, there's a huge difference between pollutants outside and pollutants in an enclosed space. I'm not saying that car exhaust is good for you, but you wouldn't be allowed to park your car inside a restaurant, so why should smoking be any different.

      I get so sick of smokers thinking they should have the right to light up wherever they want. They have every right to kill themselves, but they don't have a right to take me along with them.

      April 15, 2011 at 01:00 | Report abuse |
    • David

      So you are volunteering for the experiment? Probably not!

      The carbon monoxide levels are similar when other factors are controlled for.

      The best data suggests an increase in lung cancer risk for non smokers for living near a major road of 9-13% (this prior to US routine emissions "SMOG" testing) compared to 24% for second hand smoke from a spouse, the later increasing based on exposure – years exposed and number of cigarettes smoked by partner.
      Both of these exposures should be preventable. Keeping a smoke free house is a good start so are SMOG checks.
      You choose.

      August 1, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse |
  2. Conrad Shull

    In the 2006 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health meta-analysis the EPA cheated by arbitrarily lowering the threshold of "statistical significance" JUST for this "study" (not a study, a meta-analysis). The Wall Street Journal covered this irregularity, but the majority of researchers, agreeing that the methodology was not jusy faulty, but dishonest, kept silent because, well, the cause was worth it – giving the government power to regulate where people could smoke. I smoked for over 30 years and quit 11 years ago and am very happy I did, but the EPA meta-analysis is essentially a lie. I'd be happy with an ALMOST smoke free world, but I hate the EPA's mendacity.

    April 13, 2011 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Isaac J. Conner

      It's perplexing to me that people choose to be willfully ignorant in the age of information. Some just do not care about the truth because they have an agenda that, in their mind, trumps the facts.

      Thank you Conrad for offering a succinct version of the actual facts behind the EPA's study. It was a fallacious study to which the lemmings of society have subscribed because they have no practice thinking for themselves.

      Oh yeah, I'm a non-smoker.

      July 19, 2013 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
  3. Steve D

    The difference between secondhand tobacco smoke and vehicle exhaust is that vehicle exhaust is the price we pay for transporting goods and people, and getting fire trucks and ambulances to people's homes. You might live longer without vehicle exhaust, but not if you have a monotonous diet (from lack of foods you can't grow locally) and have to walk to the hospital when you get sick. Tobacco smoke, on the other hand, contributes nothing of value to society. It's all cost and zero benefit.

    Then there's the sheer personal violation of having to breathe other people's smoke, or smell the residue of smoking in hotel rooms and so on. I like to drink coffee. The byproduct of my pleasure is urine. If smokers get to dump their waste products on me, well, turnabout is fair play, right?

    April 14, 2011 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pete

      How about the horrible breath others around you have to endure? Or the damage that it does to your teeth and cardiovascular system? Most all activities we take part in, or products we consume have dangerous risks and side effects your oversimplifying the argument.

      April 14, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      You're*

      April 14, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
    • FatherLeeds

      SteveD...Tobacco smoke does contribute to soceity...indirectly. How, to have tobacco smoke we need smokers, and for smokers to create tobacco smoke, they need cigarettes (or other tobacco products), The making and selling of cigarettes is big multi billion dollar business. This provides employement for people and tax revenue for the government. These are all benefits to society. Let's not forget all the people that are employeed in health care to help take care of smokers.

      As for the being exposed to other people's smoke...laws against smoking in public have pretty much eliminated this risk. So much so that for most people, they have to be go out of there way to be in the vicinity of s smoker to be exposed to it. Most hotels are smoke free...and if they do have smoking rooms it's usually only a handful...so asked to be moved if the linger smelll of tobacco offends you.

      The way I see it, the government has pretty much made it so that non-smokers get a hell of a lot of benefit in the form of employment and tax revenue when compared to the minimal amount of exposure they get to second hand smoke. If the government really cared about people's health and less about big business and the associated tax revenue...they would flat out outlaw / ban smoking.

      April 14, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
    • G H

      You are right the smoke does do nothing of value. But smoke being the byproduct of tobacco which is taxed to the hilt and continues to get attacked with taxes. Every year taxes continue to rise on tobacco, why because the government knows it is a good way to generate revenue. Do you think if everyone would quit smoking that tax would go away, NO it would be passed onto everyone, because the government relies on that revenue.

      April 14, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  4. davidadams281

    Such a dividing issue and seems to be keeping with the theme lately.

    I think we need to control the health hazards we can and recognize that we're not going to be able to prevent everything that can harm us.

    David
    http://www.allthingsdepression.com

    April 14, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bill Rhodes

    An interesting conflict appears when OSHA was asked by a group called ASH, or "Action on Smoking and Health" (an anti-smoking group) to set a PEL forsecond hand smoke... It seems all of the harmful VOCs in second hand smoke were already regulated by OSHA, but their PELs were so high, even in a small room, with many people smoking at the same time, OSHA PELs would not even come close to being breached for any of the VOCs in second hand smoke!

    Here is the OSHA opinion: "Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standards. . . . It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded."- Greg Watchman, acting assistant secretary of OSHA, to Leroy J. Pletten, PhD, July 8, 1997.

    Using EPA figures on the emissions per cigarette of everything measurable in secondhand smoke, they compared them to OSHA's PELs. The following excerpt is directly from their report and their Washington testimony:

    "We posit a sealed, unventilated enclosure that is 20 feet square with a 9 foot ceiling clearance.
    Taking the figures for ETS yields per cigarette directly from the EPA, we calculated the number of cigarettes that would be required to reach the lowest published "danger" threshold for each of these substances. Our chart (Table 1) illustrates each of these substances, but let me report some notable examples.

    For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes would be required to reach the lowest published danger threshold.

    For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes would be required.

    Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

    At the lower end of the scale– in the case of Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up simultaneously in our little room to reach the threshold at which they might begin to pose a danger.

    For Hydroquinone, only 1250 cigarettes are required.

    April 14, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Law Student

    Is there really any question that the Chief Medical Officer of the ACS is going to say seconnd-hand smoke really isn't that bad? Even when the WHO originally published, and later retracted at the urging of the U.S., the largest study to date on the effects of second-hand smoke and determined that there was no statistically significant risk to those exposed. Maybe CNN should pick an "expert" that is a little less biased – or require the expert to provide statistical data with links to those studies cited – because this "medical professional turned activist" isn't very convincing...

    April 14, 2011 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. fuyuko

    there was an interesting article on cnn, about the reduction of childhood earaches, being linked to the reduction of adult American smoking. Personally, second hand smoke is nasty, and I cannot abide the stench of burning tobacco- but if people can choose to smoke so only their own health is affected, that's a choice they should be able to make.

    April 14, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ann

    I really don't care if others smoke. That is their choice and their life. However, I do think that courtesy towards others goes a long way.

    I have a lot of allergies and mild asthma. When I'm exposed to smoke my eyes will start to have a burning sensation, breathing feels like it takes more effort, and eventually I begin to wheeze.

    My In-laws will chain smoke when we are over to visit and I don't know how to tell them it is making me so uncomfortable. They even have noticed my wheezing and asked if I was coming down with something and what am I supposed to say? that this only happens when I visit them?

    My eyes become red and watery and hurt and eventually I have to get up either go outside to get a break or go to the bathroom where there is less smoke. By time we leave I am so happy to go home. It takes awhile before my airways quit feeling irritated. II usually have to take off all my clothes and wash them and take a shower before I get back to feeling normal.

    They also will hold their grandchildren, even the infants, while holding their cigarette in the other hand and blow smoke right in their faces. Their theory is that they did this with both their son and daughter and no one was effected so they are all good. I can't help but notice that the grandkids (who are over often) pretty much continually have respitory infections and I wonder how much of the smoke is effecting them. I just hope none of them end up with asthma out of the deal.

    April 14, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. dunn

    I don't care if second hand smoke will hurt me or not. Keep it out of my face. This is one of the most ignorant arguments I have ever heard. Smokers are always trying to rationalize their habit as it is easier than stopping the habit. Rationalize away, but you can't hide from the fact that they kill people. Many in my family have suffered from smoking as have I. Even with all the suffering so many continue to smoke and make excuses. Just admit you know it is dumb and don't complain when you are on your death bed that my tax dollars should be helping you pay for your treatment via the government.

    April 14, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JJMurray

      Actually Dunn, there is no legitimate proof that it does kill people. As for keeping it out of your face, any normally polite person will try not to breath smoke in your face in any case. Those who do it without concern probably are doing all kinds of rude things to people even when they aren't smoking. Bottom line is that tobacco is not illegal and this ongoing discriminatory campaign against smokers is simply another way of having government control what we are allowed to do while taxing the heck out of it to raise money.

      April 14, 2011 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
    • keno

      IT'S A FREE COUNTRY IS IT NOT? I PAY 15000 A YEAR TAXES SO IF I WANT TO SMOKE I'LL DO IT! I AM RESPECTFUL TO OTHERS AND SMOKE OUTSIDE WHERE CAR EXHAUST ETC.. IS MUCH WORSE. SO IF YOU DON'T 2ND HAND SMOKE MOVE SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!

      April 14, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
    • Mase

      Smoking doesn't kill you *immediately*, rather you die of what it causes. It is absolutely true that smoking causes COPD. So if you want to split hairs go ahead. You can try to explain this to me when you get sick, gasping for air that can't make it through your tiny, swollen airways into you useless, black, crumbling lungs. In the mean time, keep your nasty black could of death and stink out of my airspace. And the cost of your health care for your habit causes the price of my insurance to go up. It would be much more constructive to stop acting persecuted and think about how your actions harm those around you.

      April 16, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    Has there ever been an usual amount of inside pets, dogs, cats, etc that have been killed by second hand smoke, if any. How many death certificates for people list second hand smoke as cause of death. True test studies never completely have a 100% controlled environment. As many of these numbers of people would have died of smae disease regardless of any contact with smoke period.

    April 14, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. james darnley

    i don;t smoke but i read the article and i don;t believe it. i still think it;s all a smoke screen to make people worry about something that is really not that dangerous so they don;t bother the politicians with the real problems facing this country.there are just to many factors that cause cancer to isolate it to just one problem. there;s air pollution smoked meats exhaust fumes from motor vehicles.barbequed foods.fruits and vegtablees sprayed with insect repellants.microwaves.nobodt ever figured out whether they were safe or not.

    April 14, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. linus

    Unfortunately, the expert ignored the first question: "how much secondhand smoke does a nonsmoker get anyway?" Spouses of smokers and flight attendants confined in an airplane with smokers apparently inhale enough to cause problems, but you'll never convince me that (for example) a non-smoking server who spends, say, 20% of his/her shift in the smoking section of a restaurant is at any higher risk for a smoking-related illness, or (even more absurdly) that walking past a smoker as I enter a building increases my risk.

    April 14, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Denizen Kate

      Good point, but you're trying to apply logic and reason to a topic that has far too much emotional value for our politicians, who don't seem to want to go up against the powerful anti-smoking factions. I used to smoke, have managed not to smoke for about 4.5 years, but when I walk past someone who is outside smoking a cigarette, I don't feel the least bit endangered. Both of my parents smoked, and I'm still breathing just fine.

      April 14, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
  13. Jack

    Main thing is it's a great way to raise taxes on a selected few. And give government backing to insurance companies to burn your ass with extremely high premieums.

    April 14, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. JJMurray

    Why is it these articles never mention that the few studies done on second hand smoke that everyone likes to quote were all discredited? This is telling the lie long enough and loud enough until people believe it.

    April 14, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jack

    This is like saying 50% of traffic deaths are alcohol related. therefore cut back on drinking any amount and driving. But 50% of deaths are unrelated. If no one drinks and drives then trafficc deaths would be 100% non related should we then get people to drink and cut down this 100% figure.

    April 14, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Denizen Kate

    There is much in Dr. Brawley's article that I find highly questionable, but two statements in particular:

    1. "The spouses of the smokers had a significantly higher risk of lung cancer." Please define "significantly." That's a very ambiguous word that can be "spun" in any direction one wants in order to make a point.

    2. "It has been demonstrated several times that towns initiating laws limiting public and workplace smoking see in a decrease in heart attack rates within one year of enacting the laws." Really? And this decrease is how much, exactly? On average? And isn't it possible that this decrease is due to many other factors having nothing whatsoever to do with smoking, such as people making healthier lifestyle choices like eating better and exercising more? That sort of thing has been catching on lately, don't you agree Dr. Brawley?

    I have yet to see ANYONE answer the simple question: if second-hand smoke is so very, very deadly, why are not more of us baby boomers dead or dying of lung disease or cancer? Virtually ALL of our parents smoked. We were raised in smoke-laden homes. People smoked in supermarkets, in movie theaters, in school auditoriums, and so on and so forth. Why are most of us still breathing? Hmmm?

    April 14, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dx2718

      1. Significantly means that given the rates of lung cancer among non-smoking spouses of smokers and non-smoking spouses of non-smokers, the difference is at least 95% likely not to just be a statistical fluke. That is, if there were actually no effect of second-hand smoke, and the average rates were the same, you'd only observe the *observed* rates in the sample size 5% of the time. Or less. (My guess is it's quite a bit less, though you're right it'd be nice if they actually gave some numbers.)

      2. You present an alternate hypothesis, that in the year following the enacting of anti-smoking laws, people's health is improving because they are all, at the same time, making lifestyle changes. But if those lifestyle changes are correlated with the enactment of anti-smoking laws, then does it matter if the anti-smoking laws have a direct or indirect effect? The point is that it seems, after such laws are enacted, that people get healthier. So such laws are good, however they work. (However, I think the alternate theory of people making lifestyle changes after anti-smoking laws are enacted is pretty farfetched – that shouldn't be significantly different from year to year, and presumably they are observing the trend, so not only do they see a difference, but the difference is much bigger than that in previous and subsequent years, even if the overall rates are continually decreasing.)

      3. Baby boomers are dying of all sorts of things, including various kinds of cancer, heart disease, and other smoke-related illnesses. But people's susceptibility is affected not just by exposure to toxins but also genetics, lifestyle, and other things. It may be that only 1 in 100 people will die of lung cancer (before something else) as a result of being exposed to second-hand smoke, but in a population of a million, that translates to 10,000 preventable deaths. That's twice as many as the victims of 9/11.

      April 14, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      @DX2718, good points, and food for further thought. However, given that boomers were exposed to so much second-hand smoke, and discounting those who themselves smoked at one time (such as myself) or still smoke, I don't think the percentages of those dying from smoke-related illnesses are in keeping with these more recent studies. I must keep the salt shaker handy, and presume extreme bias on the part of anti-smokers.

      April 14, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      I'm a boomer & a smoker...back when you could also smoke in hospitals & doctors' offices. I personally know of no one (or pet) that ever died from secondhand smoke. But baseless arguments, opinions & statistics could give me a terminal headache.

      April 14, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
  17. Jack

    Good point Kate. And aren't most of these deaths in the 70's and 80's? Isn't it normal to die in your 70's and 80's?

    April 14, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Denizen Kate

      Exactly! Everyone dies of something. This topic becomes overly emotional because discredited "studies" have convinced so many that "the children" are in danger.

      A few years ago I had a discussion with my doctor who wanted me to quit smoking (i haven't smoked in over 4 years), and she said I should quit smoking, don't drink alcohol (which I've never really done much), don't eat rich foods, and on and on, and that if I gave up all these vices I'd live longer. My response: Ya call that living, doc?

      April 14, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  18. GB

    I'd love to see smoking made illegal. I hate it. I always stay clear of places where you can smoke but its impossible to completely escape. I walk to work and there are ALWAYS people outside their office buildings smoking that I have to pass. When its windy, I could be 50 yards away and still smell it. I have zero tolerance. I have asthma. It takes all of a few minutes for my lungs to hurt if I'm exposed to smoke. I take every precaution I can but its still not completely avoidable.

    April 14, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WC

      LOL, go buy a bubble!

      April 14, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
  19. DE

    LC6624 when it comes to marijuana you don't know what you're tqlking about.

    April 14, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Chris

    Denizen Kate, you ae so right!

    I, too, am a "baby boomer". 41 years ago when I had my baby, everyone in the HOSPITAL smoked, including the doctors and nurses. I remember there were ashtrays in the hospital room, and I remember having a cigarette in one hand and giving my baby a bottle with the other! Horrifying now when I think about it, but that's the way it was. Who knew! Incidentally, my baby and I are still fine and healthy !

    April 14, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Captain

    It'd be nice if they actually referenced studies they are quoting. Link to the data and their sources – If you can find some objective ones. Otherwise this is a pointless response to the question. There is no doubt that smoking is an unhealthy habit – common sense says that... but the smoking "alarm-ism" is over the top these days. The paranoia just doesn't match the data. People are exposed to far worse things every day than second hand smoke.

    April 14, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mike

    While I agree that smokers, as well as the rest of humanity, need to exercise courtesy with regard to others I also see, once again, where people have become absolutely and irrationally phobic about (in this instance)the effects of 2nd hand smoke. The real facts seem to indicate that it poses no more harm than the environment in general yet our government continues to placate the hyperphobic by practicing what Stephen Colbert called "truthiness". If it seems like and sounds like it should be true, thus it must be true! Goes a long ways towards explaining why we have the kind of problems we have today in this country since there is no shortage of gullible people and plenty of demagogues to exploit them. Nothing but sheep!

    April 14, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JAB

    There is a really simple solution to the secondhand smoke issue. Mandate that smokers be required to wear a smoke containment helmet. That way, smokers can smoke all they want, anywhere they want, and the rest of us don't have to smell the foul stench caused by tobacco smoke. It doesn't make smoking any more dangerous for the smoker and it removes any possibility of people nearby breathing secondhand smoke.

    April 14, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mase

      That's a great idea. Love it!

      April 16, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse |
  24. Marlboro Man

    LOL, gotta laugh at smokers' attempts at self-justification. Smokers are disgusting losers. You look like morons when you stand outside the building sucking your smoke on the sidewalk – LOL! Yeah, uh huh, you look real sofisteekated....LMAO.

    April 14, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dom625

      Why is it always the self-righteous non-smokers who fire the first name-calling shots? Your IQ just fell at least 20 points.

      April 15, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
  25. jbohdrider

    The push against second hand smoke is primarily a push against smoking in general. There is a group of folks in the country that are constantly whining about anything to do wiht smoking and they are a squeeky wheel that is getting some grease. There is no way that second hand smoke is any worse than sitting around a camp fire sucking up the fumes. With that said, I will add that I think it is a good idea to avoid spewing smoke around everybody, especialy children.

    April 14, 2011 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KG

      When you light up a campfire in the middle of the restaurant I'm eating at, I'll complain about that too.

      Comparing the effects of secondhand smoke to all this other stuff (campfires, car exhaust, etc) is ridiculous – smoking is the only thing that some people think they should have the right to do anywhere (restaurants, airplanes, office buildings, etc).

      April 15, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
    • Cant Smoke At Work

      Can't smoke on airplanes, ok we're in a sealed tin can, I can understand that.
      Can't smoke in the office, ok we're confined in the same space for long periods of time, I can respect that.
      Can't smoke at outdoor stadiums/concert venues, it's outside but we're all confined in a tight space so I will make that sacrifice because I've seen how the smoke can linger in a large enough group.
      Can't smoke at a restaurant even in a smoking section, ok most smoking sections are a joke (actually "were a joke" because they no longer exist) so I'll step outside after my meal so that I don't interfere with your enjoyment of your meal.
      Can't smoke in a bar, I would posit that there are more dangerous activities in bar than cigarette smoke, but sure ok I would hate for the presence of my smoke to interfere with the enjoyment of your 12th shot just before you drive to your next destination.
      Can't smoke within 25 feet of an entrance, while it's an inconvenience for me and I would contend that it doesn't pose any statistically significant risk to others even those apparently that have repository conditions so bad that even a millisecond contact with cigarette smoke could kill them even though they apparently can survive the million other environmental toxins in the air, I'm a nice guy so I'll make sure that I'm not blowing smoke anywhere near you, even on windy days, as you enter a building.
      But, and I'm not kidding, my employer now has a policy where I can't even smoke in my own car on their campus. This is a direct result of the majority of people like yourself saying "Smoking is icky" so any rules that limit smoking are ok even if what is being banned has absolutely no impact on me.
      Up next, employers saying that employee can't smoke even when not at work (oh wait that's already happened).
      After that maybe it's time to go after people that come up with stupid anonymous pseudonyms for posts on blog sites or anything else the majority finds distasteful or icky.

      August 10, 2011 at 04:29 | Report abuse |
  26. GetAGrip

    Second-hand smoke is a very popular whipping post. You can smell cigarette smoke, but you cannot smell carbon monoxide, which will kill you more immediately. There are many environmental pollutants that can and will cause health issues from long-term exposure, and we are all exposed to them on a regular basis.

    I had a co-worker who lived in New York City, and our office building was right next to eight lanes of traffic – think semi's spewing diesel exhaust all day long – but although he never thought much about his environment at home and at work, he was very activist about second-hand smoke from the workers taking a break outside the building. Like many anti-smokers, he never complained about the environmental pollution that he couldn't smell, but since he could detect the smell of cigarette smoke, it set off his alarms. And he's not the only person I've met who is like this.

    Smoking in an enclosed, confined area, such as an airplane, is a significant environmental risk. But if someone is smoking outside, the rate of particles per million is very low, unless they are standing very close to you, or blowing smoke in your face. Since it has a strong odor, you can tell it's there, even outside, but unless you are in very frail health or are allergic to cigarette smoke, chances are you shouldn't have yourself measured for a coffin yet.

    My grandfather smoked 5 packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day for 60 years. My non-smoking grandma, who was exposed to his second-hand smoke for decades, is in excellent health at age 91. I know one anecdote doesn't disprove the theory, but hopefully you can understand why I am somewhat cynical about the people who freak out if they catch a whiff of smoke.

    April 14, 2011 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Tony

    yeah, and all that clean air that comes out of car exhaust, diesel fumes from buses and trucks and coal and electrical plants is so much safer than second hand smoke. Give me a break

    May 9, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Darryl

    The whole purpose of this is too outlaw tobacco. We all now its coming. I have many relatives that are exposed to second hand smoke and NONE of them developed lung cancer. The is all PR to get smoking outlawed. Already, they have started banning smoking AT ALL anywhere on the property. Universities are an example. Now, its illegal to smoke on many Campuses even when outside and away from building entrances.

    May I remind people, that if the topic is focuses on banning products that cause health risks, Alcohol is the next logical step. Once you allow them to ban smoking, and they get away with it, the next step is to ban ANYTHING that causes a health risk. Karma is a you know what people, be careful what you wish for.

    April 12, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Louise

    I got here looking for info about 2nd hand smoke to try and find out if it is really as bad as people think it is. Not having much luck. All the information seems to come from Govt agencies that say it is bad. The only things I have found that say it isn't are coments from people. Everything I read talks about studies that prove it is harmful yet none of them ever lists the studies or give any indication on where to find these studies. I am always leary of anything Gov't related. Gov'ts lie all the time and Gov't agencies always have an agenda as do groups of any kind. Are there any really honest studies that are unbiased as to the end result they desire. I fear very few if any. I read that some studies have been proven false. Where is the real proof one way or the other? I know that smoking does harm the smoker but does it really harm the non smoker? I understand a non smoker not liking the smell but where is the proof that it actually harms them? I've never heard of anyone ever dying from a smell. So far all I know is what I have seen. I'm a Baby Boomer who grew up when everyone smoked everywhere and it doesnt seem to have harmed me in any way. Boomers were exposed to 2nd hand smoke a whole lot more than anyone is today. Our parents all smoked and they are living longer than those of my generation. So what's the deal? Is it truth or just propaganda designed to tax smokers into oblivion? It wasn't that long ago either than most people did smoke. Now smokers have become the popular choice to be picked on and rediculed. Even worse than the perverts and criminals in our society. I've seen a lot more people die from alcohol use than from 2nd hand smoke. Alcohol kills those that abuse it and kills innocent people who don't even drink. Why isn't that frowned upon as much as tobacco use is? The population in general believe what they are told and never research or even think whether something is true or not. Even with all the information available on the internet these days, it is often very difficult to find the truth about anything. Most of it is comments from the general public who have opinions but no real knowledge. Doctors tell us 2nd hand smoke is bad yet where are they getting their information from? Doctors are trained by Big Pharma and big Pharma is all about profits. They teach doctors to push pills that make them hugh profits. They have a vested interest in Gov't agencies that do their bidding. So how is one to know the truth? My mother has COPD because she smoked and she has heart problems now which runs iin her family. She has lived with a smoker all her life and she is now almost 85. If 2nd hand smoke is as bad as they say, how come she is still here? Especially considering the fact that she has had COPD for 30 yrs. I had an uncle who smoked and was exposed to 2nd hand smoke all his life and he lived to a ripe old age of 88. So where is the PROOF? Is it really 2nd hand smoke making them sick or is it all the chemicals, pollutants and enviromental hazards we are exposed to every day that is the culprit?

    December 2, 2012 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. stimpsonjcat2012

    The "Meta Analysis" that the doctor here is referencing has been widely and soundly debunked as hack-science. In fact, the EPA was absolutely destroyed in court by a judge who knew his way around lying with statistics. In fact, the report found an increase of 19% with a confidence interval of 1. that means the real results could have been anywhere from -81% to +119%. So basically, it was a bogus study. No Journal of medicine will accept studies like these, because they are cherry-picked and are "analyzed" by activists, not scientists.

    A quick review of the World Health Organization study, that was buried, will tell you that being around another smoker in the family or in a smokey workplace will fill your lungs up with just about 6 cigarettes per year.

    Yes, SIX.

    You REALLY think that is going to affect your health?

    For the record, I am not a smoker and do not enjoy the smell of cigarettes. However, I do not feel the need to lie about what all the studies have found – that secondhand smoke is harmless.

    January 2, 2013 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. randall scott

    Taking smoke into your lungs intentionally, and repeatedly, cannot be a good thing. I think human evolution has shown us that. It's the job of medical science to present facts to people so they can make sound decisions about how they live. If these pros spin those facts in favor of a more healthy lifestyle, you can't blame them–they're health professionals.

    If people choose to take risks with their own lives, however, that's their own business. The main question, obviously, is not about how my choices affect me, it's about how my chocies affect YOU. Second-hand smoke is real, not an illusion. And, It seems clear at this point that 2nd hand smoke does have some unhealthy impact upon some people, especially if it is constant and repeated, not just occasional. Exposure to indoor second-hand smoke cannot be good for your health, that much seems clear, especially if you are within an enclosed area.

    But, banning smoking in outdoor areas seems a stretch, unless humankind is moving quickly in the direction of no-pollution-anywhere. One might see the logic in banning smoking in outdoor public areas where many people congregate, but it's hard to see the logic in smoke-bans in open-air areas where few people are gathered. Common sense would tell you that smoking outdoors, in most instances, will not have a serious impact upon others, unless they are standing right next to you.

    And let's stay in touch with reality. Tobacco is a money-maker, a tax-payer, a political contributor. That gives it influence and clout. Until the tobacco industry folds or goes under, the use of tobacco will remain a legal activity.

    April 27, 2013 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. angryatNONSENSE

    And the ignorant speak. Speculation is not science, and science says second hand smoke does not cause cancer. This is something that is well known by scientists and people who actually care about the truth. Most people hear it when they are young and are told it over and over again. Then when presented with the truth they do.not believe it. Then they don't trust science because they think they are being lied to by them. When in fact it is the other way around. There is not one scientific study that shows second hand smoke causes cancer other then discredited ones. Not only discredited but thrown out as evidence by the supreme court in the us. People don't want to accept the truth. I don't think anyone should smoke because of there health, but it us just lying to say that it will effect mine. I hate misinformation , please if you don't believe me, investigate it , or don't give your 2 cents because people deserve the truth not what you think, nor what you have speculated.
    If someone gets lung cancer and they live in the same house as a smoker, there is NO proof that it was the smoke. People get lung cancer and are never subject to tobacco smoke.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. pastor tim walker

    In November 1995 after a 20-month study, the Congressional Research Service released a detailed analysis of the EPA report that was highly critical of EPA's methods and conclusions. In 1998, in a devastating 92-page opinion, Federal Judge William Osteen vacated the EPA study, declaring it null and void. He found a culture of arrogance, deception, and cover-up at the agency.

    Osteen noted, "First, there is evidence in the record supporting the accusation that EPA 'cherry picked' its data. ... In order to confirm its hypothesis, EPA maintained its standard significance level but lowered the confidence interval to 90 percent. This allowed EPA to confirm its hypothesis by finding a relative risk of 1.19, albeit a very weak association. ... EPA cannot show a statistically significant association between [SHS] and lung cancer."

    The judge added, "EPA publicly committed to a conclusion before the research had begun; adjusted established procedure and scientific norms to validate its conclusion; and aggressively utilized its authority to disseminate findings to establish a de facto regulatory scheme to influence public opinion."

    In 2003 a definitive paper on SHS and lung cancer mortality was published in the British Medical Journal. It is the largest and most detailed study ever reported. The authors studied more than 35,000 California never-smokers over a 39-year period and found no statistically significant association between exposure to SHS and lung cancer mortality." There is no scientific link between SHS and cancer! Period!

    November 8, 2013 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. aelfheld

    "Secondhand smoke also causes lung cancer, heart and lung disease in non-smokers."

    This is a bald-faced lie – disproven over and over and over again – that Brawley pushes largely because of his vested interest as chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

    December 19, 2013 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. olsonnr

    I am living in a house temporarily for 3 months with a smoker. She smokes in the garage and her smoke gets in the rest of the house. Her clothes smell from smoke. Do you think this is going to hurt my health if it is going to be just for 3 months?

    December 24, 2013 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. SAM Wally

    All bull,All Lies,If that's the Case all the BABY BOOMERS WOULD BE DEAD ,GONE,OUTTA HERE.How about all the mummies that had heart disease,and they found out YOU EXPERTS THERE WAS NO TOBACCO BACK then But there WAS BOOZE,WHich by the way experts Kills,Injures,causes more diseases in the world than any other legal substance,SMOKING dont even come close to teh $ 270 Billion a year just in the USA ALCOHOL USE COSTS SOCIETY..Kepp smoking that DOPE

    January 11, 2014 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ed

      If your post is an example of the effects of tobacco on the brain, I'll steer clear.

      January 11, 2014 at 18:26 | Report abuse |
  37. Leland

    Valuable information. Fortunate me I discovered your website by accident, and I am shocked why this accident didn't came about in advance! I bookmarked it.

    February 20, 2014 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.