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:
- Children and spouses of smokers, or anyone who lives with a smoker.
- People who spend most of their time in confined areas that are filled with tobacco smoke.
Last Revised: July 18, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
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