Tobacco smoke causes disease and death in both smokers and non-smokers. This is because tobacco smoke damages every organ in the body. There are 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke (69 that we know cause cancer). When inhaled, the body quickly absorbs these 7,000 chemicals, causing changes in body cells that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other serious health issues. There is
no safe level of exposure.
Second-hand smoke is both sidestream smoke (the smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette) and mainstream smoke (the smoke exhaled by the smoker).
Sidestream smoke makes up about 85% of second-hand smoke. It’s made up of different chemicals than exhaled mainstream smoke because it burns at lower temperature, and the burn is not as clean or complete.
Being exposed to second-hand smoke affects an adult’s heart and blood vessels right away. Adult non smokers who live with smokers are at about 25% more risk of developing heart disease.
Second-hand smoke causes lung cancer even in non-smokers. In Canada, more than 300 non-smokers die each year from lung cancer related to second-hand smoke.
Children who already have asthma have more attacks and the attacks are more serious.
Traces of cancer-causing and other toxins are found in the blood, urine, saliva, and breastmilk of non smokers, even after little exposure to second-hand smoke.
Opening windows in buildings or vehicles doesn’t protect you from the effects of second-hand smoke. Opening windows may get rid of the smell; however, it doesn’t get rid of the cancer-causing toxins in the air. Only 100% smoke-free environments protect you from second-hand smoke.
When tobacco is burning, it releases nicotine in the form of a vapour. This vapour attaches to surfaces like walls, floors, carpeting, drapes, and furniture. Nicotine reacts with nitrous acid (one source of which is burning tobacco) and forms cancer causing tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). The nicotine can last for months on indoor surfaces. This means that these TSNAs are always being created. TSNAs are then inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. Anyone who smokes in any enclosed space (like a car or home) is exposing non-smokers to TSNAs.
Children are more sensitive to being exposed to third-hand smoke because they breathe near, crawl on, play on, touch, and even taste (because they often put their hands in their mouths) surfaces contaminated with tobacco residue.
Experts on third-hand smoke recommend 100% smoke-free homes and vehicles. They also suggest that replacing furniture, carpets, drapes, etc., can greatly reduce exposure to third-hand smoke residue.
Tobacco Reduction Act (TRA), all public and work places in the province are smoke free. The act also prohibits smoking on patios with food service and within 5 metres of a doorway, window, or air intake of a public place or workplace (including enclosed parking garages and work vehicles).
The following will protect children and others from exposure to second-hand and third-hand smoke:
Current as of: July 1, 2015
Author: Tobacco Reduction Program, Alberta Health Services