According to new data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in four non-smokers are consistently exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke. Indeed, although the number of [traditional] cigarette smokers have been on a steady decline since the 1980s—along with the number of people exposed to toxic second-hand smoke—the recent stall in this progress has raised concerns among health officials.
It is commonly understood that secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals; approximately 70 of these are, at the very least, possibly carcinogenic. In addition to cancers, though, secondhand smoke has been known to cause various other health conditions. This could include asthma attacks, ear infections, and respiratory infections in children and infants; and even infant death syndrome. In [non-smoking] adults, of course, it could lead to stroke and heart disease (among cancer, again).
Secondhand smoke can raise heart disease risk by nearly 30 percent and lung cancer risk between 20 and 30 percent.
The Surgeon General’s Report from 2014 assesses that secondhand smoke exposure causes more than 41,000 deaths from heart disease and lung cancer alone among non-smoking adults. Also, the same report indicates that secondhand smoke causes upwards of 400 deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
It may also be important to note that secondhand smoke exposure continues to be a high risk for certain groups. For example, data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests nearly 40 percent of children under the age of 11 are exposed. The same data also shows that nearly half of people who live in poverty—and approximately 40 percent of people—who live in rental housing are also consistently exposed.
The CDC ponders over the reason that the cigarette smoking reduction rate has slowed. They theorize, perhaps, that the continued decline could be the result of slower adoption of comprehensive smoke-free laws across working spaces, food service establishments, and bars at state and local levels. Actually, the CDC says only 27 states and the District of Columbia have adopted comprehensive smoke-free laws. Between 2015 and 2017, 199 communities have adopted comprehensive smoke-free laws.