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How Bad Is Secondhand Smoke?

Secondhand Smoke

Many people avoid cigarette smoking because they are aware of the risks — so what about smoke inhaled as consequence of the actions of others? Involuntary exposure to tobacco or secondhand smoke (SHS) is a factor in and a source of various health issues, including heart failure and lung cancer. With almost 1 billion adult smokers globally, secondhand smoke consumption is nearly inevitable for children and non-smokers. 

Hence, it is important to recognize the dangers and health consequences of involuntary secondhand smoke exposure. The goal of this article is to provide you with a quick education on this topic and the strategies you can employ to reduce the dangers of secondhand smoke.

What Does Secondhand Smoke Contain? 

The term "secondhand smoke" refers to both the smoke exhaled by a smoker (mainstream smoke) and the smoke generated directly by the burning tobacco product (sidestream smoke). 

Secondhand smoke includes a variety of harmful compounds, including the following: 

  • Ammonia, a chemical compound used in cleaning materials
  • Benzene, a component of gasoline
  • Cadmium is a highly poisonous metal
  • Cyanide, a toxic agent, found in chemical warfare
  • Formaldehyde is a compound used in industry 

However, it is not just the smoke that is worrisome. Thirdhand smoke is the odor that adheres to household soil and surfaces. Owing to their daily association with polluted products, such as carpeting, young children are especially vulnerable to thirdhand smoke exposure. 

What Factors Contribute to the Dangers of Secondhand Smoke?

All smoke generated by the combustion of nicotine products includes carcinogenic chemicals (toxins). Non-smokers who inhale other people's cigarette smoke inhale these toxic chemicals. The smoke generated by the side stream of a cigarette, cigar, or pipe is unfiltered and contains more toxic pollutants than conventional smoke that people inhale. 

When Does Secondhand Smoke Begin to Cause Damage? 

According to studies, secondhand smoke will cause harm in as little as five minutes: 

  • Within five minutes, the arteries get less flexible, just like they are with a smoker. 
  • In about 20-30 minutes, the blood begins to clot, and fat deposits in the blood arteries increase heart disease and stroke likelihood. 
  • An abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) can occur after two hours, potentially precipitating a heart attack or other cardiac issue. 

The Facts About Secondhand Smoke 

  • Every year, secondhand smoke kills about 7,330 people from lung cancer and 33,950 people from heart failure.
  • According to a US Surgeon General, in 2014, 2.5 million people died due to secondhand smoke between 1964 and 2014. Additionally, the study claimed that secondhand smoke is an established source of stroke.
  • There is no risk-free amount of secondhand smoke exposure, and even brief exposure can raise the risk of heart attacks.
  • Secondhand smoke includes hundreds of contaminants linked to cancer or are considered harmful, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide.
  • Secondhand smoke can trigger heart attacks; even brief exposure can result in a heart attack, according to an Institute of Medicine study. 

What is the Health Problem with Secondhand Smoke?

Secondhand smoke has the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke. There is no such thing as a healthy amount of secondhand smoke exposure.

Cancer is caused by secondhand smoke. The smoke contains over 7,000 compounds, including at least 70 known carcinogens. Additionally, there is some indication that it could be associated with cancers of the: 

  • Larynx (voice box)
  • Adenopharynx (the part of the throat behind the nose)
  • Sinuses

Infants exposed to second-hand smoke can be associated with some types of childhood cancers such as:

  • Cancer in the lymph nodes
  • Acute leukemia
  • Tumors in the brain
  • Other infections and mortality

Moreover, secondhand smoke may be toxic in several aspects. For example, secondhand smoke harms the heart and blood vessels, increasing the chance of developing a heart attack. It also increases one's chance of contracting and dying of heart failure. It raises blood pressure and thereby increases the likelihood of a stroke.

Secondhand Smoke and the Well-being of Your Children

SHS has the most impact on young children. The majority of their susceptibility to SHS occurs at home, where adults (parents or others) smoke around them. According to studies, children whose parents smoke:  

  • Become ill more often
  • Have a more significant number of respiratory infections (like bronchitis and pneumonia)
  • Are more prone to cough, wheeze, and experience breathlessness
  • Experience increased ear infections
  • Are triggered or irritated if they are asthmatic

Although some of these issues may seem minor, they may quickly accumulate. Consider the costs associated with hospital appointments, medications, missed school time, and often missed job time for the adult who may remain at home with a sick infant.

SHS often raises the likelihood of developing more severe complications, such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), in extremely young children.

Who is Most at Risk of Being Harmed by Secondhand Smoke?

Anyone that is near burning or exhaled cigarettes is affected by secondhand smoke, although some people are more exposed:

  • Employees of the service sector, such as food servers and bartenders: Anyone who works near groups of smokers can find it impossible to escape secondhand smoke.
  • Pregnant women: All newborn children and their mothers are affected by secondhand smoke. Reduced oxygen availability to the baby may result in increased fetal heart rates or birth weight loss. Women can miscarry, have a stillbirth, deliver prematurely, or have an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Infants, children, and pets: Infants, children, and pets do not often have the option of leaving a smoke-filled space. Constant contact amplifies the dangers of secondhand smoke.

What is the Procedure for Diagnosing Secondhand Smoke Exposure?

The majority of individuals who inhale secondhand smoke do not usually get their blood toxicity levels checked. If you routinely inhale someone else's cigarette smoke, your doctor can conduct a nicotine inhalation test on your saliva (spit), urine, or blood.

Your healthcare provider can also perform a lung (pulmonary) function test to assess the injury. Pulmonary function checks may detect symptoms associated with the risks of secondhand smoke, such as asthma.

How Do We Stop Secondhand Smoke?

You should see your healthcare provider if you frequently inhale secondhand smoke. You should inquire about the risks of secondhand smoke and strategies to remain safe. If you have heart failure or difficulty breathing due to prolonged sensitivity to secondhand smoke, speak with your physician about treatment choices.

Sometimes, secondhand smoke consumption occurs due to cigarette usage by a family member or a personal acquaintance. If this is the case, tell them to stop smoking for everyone's sake.

You will significantly reduce the family's sensitivity to secondhand smoke with preparation. Begin with these straightforward steps: 

  • Make smoking prohibited in your house. Keep in mind that exposure to secondhand smoke is not eliminated by opening windows and utilizing fans and ventilation devices.
  • Allowing smoke in the car is prohibited, including with the windows down. If a passenger is required to smoke when driving, make frequent stops outside the car for smoke breaks.
  • Select smoke-free health care services. This is true with all daycare centers and facilities for senior citizens.
  • Select restaurants that are smoke-free. Request non-smoking hotel rooms and rental vehicles while traveling.
  • If you have a friend or family member who smokes uncontrollably, give them advice and guidance to quit.
  • Use an air purification system 

What are the Best Air Purifiers For Secondhand Smoke?

The Airpura V600 and V614 add a Pre-filter before the True HEPA  Filter and Super HEPA Filter respectively, and pack 18 pounds of Activated Carbon.

The Airpura T600DLX uses a special Tar-trapping Pre-Filter and Super HEPA Filter and packs 26 pounds of Activated Carbon.

The AllerAir Pro 5 HDS and AllerAir Pro 6 HDS use a special Tar-trapping Pre-Filter along with Super HEPA and 23/28 pounds of Activated Carbon respectively, that's 3.5 inches thick.

Air Purifier Smoke Eaters with HEPA and Carbon Technology

Best for Wildfire Smoke

Airpura V600 Air Purifier

Shop Airpura V600

Airpura V614 Air Purifier

Shop Airpura V614

Best for Heavy Tobacco Smoke or Cigarette Smoke

Airpura T600 DLX Air Purifier

Shop Airpura T600DLX

AllerAir Pro 5 HDS Smoke Air Purifier

Shop AllerAir Pro 5 HDS Smoke

AllerAir Pro 5 HDS Smoke Air Purifier

Shop AllerAir Pro 6 HDS Smoke


Thanks to modern technology, you now have the option to protect yourself from secondhand smoke while your are mobile. The Wein Personal Wearable Air Purifier provides you with a more comprehensive solution outside your home environment where circumstances may be beyond your control.

Wein Personal Wearable Air Purifier AS150MM

Shop Wein Personal Wearable Air Purifier AS150MM 


To learn more about air purifiers and related topics, we invite you to check out our Blog.

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