Second-Hand Smoke

Second-hand smoke is tobacco smoke that affects a non-smoker. Second-hand smoke can come directly from a cigarette or other lit tobacco; it may also be exhaled by a person smoking.

Second-hand smoke is sometimes referred to as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), involuntary smoking, or passive smoking.

Second-hand smoke contains the same cancer-causing and lung-damaging chemicals that affect smokers. Repeated exposure to second-hand smoke over many years can cause damage to a non-smoker's lungs that is similar to that of a smoker's.

Second-hand smoke is the most important risk factor for cancer among non-smokers, far greater than other known cancer-causing substances. Second-hand smoke is most harmful to:

  • The spouse and any child of a person who smokes, or anyone who lives with someone who smokes.
  • A developing fetus, if the pregnant woman smokes.
  • People who spend most of their time in confined areas that are filled with tobacco smoke.

Current as of: September 9, 2014

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry