Secondhand Smoke Exposure Down But Still High

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58 million nonsmokers are still being exposed to secondhand smoke
58 million nonsmokers are still being exposed to secondhand smoke

Although fewer Americans are smoking and more communities have smoke-free laws, 58 million nonsmokers are still being exposed to secondhand smoke, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.

Findings from the new study were published in the Feb. 3 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

These estimates of secondhand smoke exposure are despite the fact that exposure dropped by half between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, according to the research. The latest estimates suggest that 40 percent of children aged 3 to 11 are breathing in secondhand smoke. Among black children, that number is 70 percent, according to the CDC.

Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC, said during a midday press conference, citing the U.S. Surgeon General, that "there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."

RELATED: Smoking Increases Risk of Side Effects, Recurrence in Prostate Cancer

Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, including about 70 that can cause cancer, he added. Each year, secondhand smoke kills more than 41,000 Americans from lung cancer and heart disease, and causes 400 deaths from sudden infant death syndrome, Frieden said. "These deaths are entirely preventable," he added.

Harold Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association, said in a statement: "We recognize our nation can breathe more safely because of smoke-free laws the American Lung Association and our partners have worked so hard to pass these last 15 years.

However, more needs to be done as one in four nonsmokers continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke, including many children."


  1. Homa, David M., PhD, et al. "Vital Signs: Disparities in Nonsmokers' Exposure to Secondhand Smoke -- United States, 1999-2012." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 3, 2015.

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