Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or “secondhand smoke” is the mixture of smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and smoke exhaled by the smoker. According to a report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke involves exposure to a complex mixture of over 7,000 compounds, over 70 of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals and many of which are strong irritants.
Secondhand smoke has been shown to cause a variety of serious health problems in infants and children, including severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For adults, exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer.
The EPA estimates that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the number of episodes and severity of symptoms in hundreds of thousands of children with asthma, and may cause thousands of children to develop asthma each year. The EPA estimates that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 children with asthma have their condition aggravated by exposure to secondhand smoke each year.
While the best way to reduce or eliminate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is to prohibit smoking at home, I understand that in many living situations this is a difficult solution and a source of additional conflict.
Improving indoor air quality through increased ventilation and air filtration will reduce exposure to indoor air pollutants, including environmental tobacco smoke.