Passive smoking effects

Article banner

Breathing in second-hand smoke or ‘passive smoking’ increases a person’s risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung problems, and is particularly harmful for children.

Every year, around 12,000 people in the UK die as a result of diseases caused by passive smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and emphysema. Non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke are 25% more likely to develop lung cancer.

12,000 IN THE UK EACH YEAR CAUSED BY PASSIVE SMOKING

 

Dangers of second-hand smoke

You might think that most of the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes are inhaled by the smoker, but the opposite is true. There are two different kinds of cigarette smoke. Mainstream smoke, which is inhaled directly through the mouth end of the cigarette - and sidestream smoke, which comes from the burning tip of the cigarette.

When others breathe in second-hand smoke they are inhaling sidestream smoke and exhaled mainstream smoke, mixed with the surrounding air. Although it’s not inhaled directly, sidestream smoke contains much higher levels of poisons and cancer-causing substances, making it four times more harmful than mainstream smoke.


If you have a baby, smoking near them can increase the risk of cot death and worsen breathing problems, such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia. Children who live with smokers are more prone to meningitis, coughs and colds and middle ear infections.

Passive smoking effects on children

Passive smoking is particularly dangerous to children. Babies and children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung problems such as asthma, because their lungs are not yet fully formed.

Children who live with smokers are more prone to meningitis, cough and colds and middle ear infections.

Invisible but still there

Cigarette smoke can stay in the air for more than two hours even with a window open. Even if you can’t see or smell it, it’s still there. In fact, nearly 85% of tobacco smoke is invisible – it can build up on surfaces, such as children’s toys and clothes. If you’re going to smoke, it’s best to do it outdoors and away from other people.

When you have a cigarette in a small, enclosed space like a car, the exposure to others increases significantly. That’s why it’s now an offence to smoke in a vehicle carrying anyone under the age of 18 in England and Wales.