CDC Report Says 58 Million People Exposed to Secondhand Smoke, Down from a Decade Ago

CDC Report Says 58 Million People Exposed to Secondhand Smoke, Down from a Decade Ago
Image: Pixabay
February 06, 2015

While smoking rates continue to decline, an estimated 58 million people are still exposed to secondhand smoke.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that equates to about 1 in 4 people and includes about 15 million children ages three to 11. That's down from 1 in 2 between 1999 and 2000.

While many states, including North Carolina, prohibit smoking in many public spaces, adults and children can still be exposed in places like multi-family housing. The home is the primary source of exposure for children and 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even when living in a smoke free apartment, condominium or townhouse, smoke from other units can seep into these spaces through the ventilation system. Smoke from public common areas can also find its way in through windows and doors of nearby units.

Breaking down the demographics a little further, nearly half of black nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, including 7 in 10 black children. Low income Americans are particularly susceptible with more than 2 in 5 nonsmokers who live below the poverty line are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Second hand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals including about 70 that can cause cancer, meaning that no level of secondhand smoke exposure is safe.

The CDC says that it is a known cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma attacks in infants and children, as well as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in adult nonsmokers. Each year exposure to secondhand smoke causes more than 41,000 deaths from lung cancer and heart disease among non-smoking adults and 400 deaths from SIDS, as well as about $5.6 billion annually in lost productivity.

Safety of E-Cigarettes Questioned

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sifting through more than 135,000 public comments on a proposal to start regulating e-cigarettes in the same way as traditional tobacco products, but the safety of the devices continues to be questioned.

Touted as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes use heat to vaporize a nicotine-infused liquid. A Portland University study found that when used at high voltages, the vapor contains more formaldehyde than traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarette supporters say the study is misleading because smokers wouldn't use their devices in this manner.