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 (203 Responses)
  1. NmilZisse

    dapoxetine used with viagra viagra online singapore viagra kansas city http://xz-pharmacyonline.com/en/career-opportunities.html – where to buy viagra with no prescription ’

    January 27, 2021 at 04:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. FhnhZisse

    costco pharmacy pricing canadadrugs pharmacy buy drugs online https://canadianpharmacy-yy.com/ – Finax ’

    January 28, 2021 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Elite Proxy

    Usually I do not read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite nice post.


    January 28, 2021 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. AhmdEncox

    cheapest cialis canada Trental insurance that covers cialis https://impotencecdny.com/ – buy prescription drugs without doctor ’

    January 29, 2021 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. KbbgMile

    viagra with dapoxetine review Atorlip-10 viagra free trial voucher http://erectilejyzd.com/ – viagra from canada ’

    January 30, 2021 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. 스포츠 확률

    best i have ever seen !


    January 30, 2021 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. JnscCrulk

    viagra genetic generic viagra tadalafil 20mg kupi online viagra http://erectilejyzd.com/index.php?called=terms – viagra generic 20 mg ’

    January 31, 2021 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. FmnfEncox

    is generic cialis safe price of cialis in pakistan where to buy cialis online for cheap https://impotencecdny.com/info/history.php – cialis no script ’

    January 31, 2021 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. zortilo nrel

    It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.


    February 1, 2021 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. NgscZisse

    viagra 200 viagra europe online prescription female viagra http://canadianpharmacy-yy.com/Fitness/how-to-get-a-six-pack.html – us viagra prices ’

    February 1, 2021 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Leopoldo Roman

    This is a very interesting article. Please, share more like this!


    February 1, 2021 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Buy Real Facebook Likes

    so much fantastic information on here, : D.


    February 2, 2021 at 06:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Cortney Spragley

    Want to get more serious customers for your online business? We can deliver keyword targeted people tailored for your type of business For more info Check out: http://bit.ly/hi-quality-web-traffic


    February 3, 2021 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Cheap Social Followers

    There are some attention-grabbing time limits in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There's some validity however I'll take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively


    February 3, 2021 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. JbbvEncox

    blood pressure canadian drug costco online pharmacy

    February 3, 2021 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. NncsZisse

    priligy viagra taking viagra and cabergoline together viagra uk

    February 6, 2021 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. zortilonrel

    After research just a few of the blog posts on your website now, and I really like your means of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website record and can be checking back soon. Pls try my website online as well and let me know what you think.


    February 7, 2021 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JbnbCrulk

    canadian pharmacies shipping to usa canadian pharmacy cialis canada pharmacy online no script

    February 7, 2021 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. zortilonrel

    I'm still learning from you, but I'm trying to reach my goals. I certainly liked reading all that is written on your site.Keep the posts coming. I enjoyed it!


    February 7, 2021 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. zortilonrel

    I think this is one of the such a lot vital information for me. And i am satisfied studying your article. However wanna statement on some common things, The site style is ideal, the articles is in point of fact excellent : D. Just right job, cheers


    February 7, 2021 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LbsxEncox

    apollo pharmacy online viagra for sale paypal canada pharmaceuticals online generic

    February 7, 2021 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. KbcxMile

    gastro health best online canadian pharcharmy compare prescription prices

    February 7, 2021 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. dr-goz-peter-ugyved.business.site

    Hello There. I discovered your blog the use of msn. That is an extremely neatly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read extra of your helpful information. Thank you for the post. I will definitely comeback.


    February 9, 2021 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Europa-Road

    It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.


    February 9, 2021 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Fókuszpályázat

    I am not rattling wonderful with English but I find this very easygoing to translate.


    February 9, 2021 at 05:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. AhkdEncox

    canadian drug canada pharma limited mexican border pharmacies

    February 9, 2021 at 06:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Barry House Clearance

    Very well written article. It will be beneficial to anyone who usess it, as well as yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – can'r wait to read more posts.


    February 9, 2021 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. House Clearance Newport

    you are really a just right webmaster. The site loading pace is incredible. It sort of feels that you're doing any unique trick. In addition, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a wonderful activity in this topic!


    February 9, 2021 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. House Clearance Barry

    I'll immediately grasp your rss as I can not in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you've any? Kindly allow me realize so that I may subscribe. Thanks.


    February 9, 2021 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. FqhhEncox

    canadian prescription drugstore viagra super active ordering prescriptions from canada legally

    February 9, 2021 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. AqcfTeneseelt

    original cialis cialis brand no prescription needed cialis dosage recommend

    February 9, 2021 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. FvfcZisse

    viagra with dapoxetine overnight delivery aarp recommended canadian pharmacies viagra las vegas nv

    February 9, 2021 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. JbbnEncox

    is it safe to take 30mg of cialis comment se procurer cialis cialis 20 kaufen

    February 10, 2021 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. zWe0lhS

    370999 503924Hey there. I want to to ask slightly somethingis this a wordpress internet log as we are preparing to be transferring more than to WP. Furthermore did you make this template all by yourself? A lot of thanks. 871351

    February 11, 2021 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Anabal

    cars 3 toys next gen racers 4 pack


    February 12, 2021 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Kbbfseelt

    viagra cialis trial pack http://kloviagrli.com/ viagra kansas city

    February 12, 2021 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Louisa Bartnick

    carmax locations near me 85122 bulbapedia red blue


    February 13, 2021 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. NbnhZisse

    sildenafil 50 mg tablet cost viagra online cheap india viagra 6

    February 14, 2021 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. JbnvCrulk

    cash advance open sunday knoxville tn payday loans altrincham can payday loans garnish wages in virginia

    February 14, 2021 at 04:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. https://www.songmanhits.com

    Best view i have ever seen !


    February 14, 2021 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. KvaxMile

    payday loans in eunice louisiana islamic payday loan va benefits cash advance

    February 15, 2021 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. LabxEncox

    cialis cuanto dura generic cialis le moins cher cialis sam's club

    February 15, 2021 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. AhbzEncox

    payday loans online direct lenders cash advance east liverpool ohio wells fargo secured credit card cash advance

    February 17, 2021 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. FqbbEncox

    payday loan placerville payday loan cheraw sc good cash advance websites

    February 17, 2021 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. FbsgZisse

    cialis cheapest price http://llecialisjaw.com/ cialis 20mg

    February 17, 2021 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. AbcfTeneseelt

    generic viagra canadian pharmacy viagra without pprescription viagra alternatives australia

    February 18, 2021 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. remote pc assistance

    Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog based upon on the same information you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would enjoy your work. If you're even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e mail.


    February 21, 2021 at 05:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. network installation

    I believe this internet site contains very fantastic pent subject material blog posts.


    February 21, 2021 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. ClarkTauts

    85g4y ut6gd 5sds

    February 28, 2021 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. NbmoZisse

    cialis 10 mg what is super cialis, cialis dapoxetine canadien pharmacy no prescription cialis

    March 1, 2021 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

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.