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
Public Health Alerts
Public health alerts include information about outbreaks, advisories and product recalls. Click on the links below to read the most recent alerts, or visit our Public Health Alerts web page.
Want More Information?
HealthLink BC, your provincial health line, is as close as your phone or the web any time of the day or night, every day of the year.
Call 8-1-1 toll-free in B.C. or for deaf and hearing-impaired, call 7-1-1.
You can speak with a health service representative, who can also connect you with a:
- registered nurse any time, every day of the year;
- registered dietitian from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday;
- pharmacist from 5pm to 9am, every day of the year.
Translation services are available in more than 130 languages.
FIND Services and Resources
If you are looking for health services in your community, you can use our directory to FIND hospitals, clinics, and other resources.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Is it an emergency?
If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.