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Patient education: Secondhand smoke and adults (The Basics)

Patient education: Secondhand smoke and adults (The Basics)

What is secondhand smoke? — This means smoke that people breathe in when they're near a person who is smoking. Another term for secondhand smoke is "environmental tobacco smoke."

You can also be exposed to "thirdhand smoke." This means the chemicals that are left behind in a home, building, or car when people smoke inside. It can stay on carpets, walls, and other surfaces for a long time. When people come into contact with these things, they are exposed to some of the same chemicals as people who smoke.

Does secondhand smoke cause health problems? — Yes. Studies have shown that secondhand smoke can cause health problems.

The more smoke you are exposed to, the worse these problems can be. For example, people who have a partner that smokes or who work in a place where smoking is allowed tend to have a higher risk than people who are exposed to secondhand smoke occasionally.

What health problems can secondhand smoke cause? — Secondhand smoke increases your chances of having the following health problems:

Lung cancer

Heart disease and some other types of cardiovascular disease

Stroke

Diabetes

There is also some evidence that secondhand smoke can make an existing health problem worse. For example, if you have asthma or COPD, being around smoke might make your symptoms worse.

Is it enough to just make a smoke-free room in my home? — No. Even if 1 room is smoke-free, there will still be thirdhand smoke in other parts of your home. To lower the risk of health problems to people in the home, the whole home should be smoke-free. Your cars should also be smoke-free.

It will also not help enough if a person only smokes at home when others aren't around, or uses an air cleaner.

What if I want to get pregnant? — If you are pregnant and spend a lot of time in a place with secondhand smoke, your baby has a higher chance of:

Being stillborn – This is when a baby dies before it is born, in the second half of pregnancy or during labor.

Being born with health problems

Weighing less than normal at birth

What can I do to avoid secondhand and thirdhand smoke? — To avoid secondhand smoke:

Whenever possible, avoid places where people are smoking.

Do not let people smoke near you, especially inside or in a car.

To avoid thirdhand smoke:

Do not let people smoke in your home or cars – This is important even if they are not around other people.

Try to remove things that were exposed to thirdhand smoke from the home – This is not always an option. But if possible, it can help to:

Replace carpets, drywall, or other materials in homes that have been smoked in.

Repaint the walls.

Have the home professionally cleaned – Typical cleaning methods are usually not enough to remove thirdhand smoke. That's why it is important to have this done by a professional cleaner.

Replace furniture, curtains, bedding, and pillows.

Ask for a smoke-free hotel room or rental car if you travel.

If you live with a person who smokes, encourage them to talk to their doctor about quitting.

More on this topic

Patient education: Quitting smoking (The Basics)
Patient education: Lung cancer (The Basics)
Patient education: How to plan and prepare for a healthy pregnancy (The Basics)
Patient education: Smoking in pregnancy (The Basics)

Patient education: Quitting smoking (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Lung cancer risks, symptoms, and diagnosis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Lung cancer prevention and screening (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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