About Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), or second-hand smoke, is a passive form of smoking where tobacco smoke is inhaled by non-smokers. ETS occurs from smoke emitted from lit cigarettes, cigars and pipes or the exhalation from smokers. It can cause serious health problems including respiratory problems, cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.1

Facts and Figures

  • ETS contains more than 4,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer.1
  • The Environmental Protection Agency estimates second-hand smoke causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in non-smokers.1
  • Children are especially vulnerable to the dangers of second-hand smoke.1
  • Respiratory tract infections result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year in children.2


Secondhand smoke can cause the following health impacts in children:3

  • Ear infections
  • More frequent and severe asthma attacks
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath)
  • Respiratory infections (i.e., bronchitis, pneumonia)
  • A greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

In adults, secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.3

Gain Control: Actions You Can Take

To help prevent health and safety risks due to environmental tobacco smoke, see below for suggested actions you can take4:

  • Don’t smoke any cigarettes. Each cigarette you smoke damages your lungs, your blood vessels, and cells throughout your body. Even occasional smoking is harmful.
  • Write down why you want to quit. Do you want to be around for your loved ones? Have better health? Set a good example for your children? Protect your family from breathing other people’s smoke? Really wanting to quit smoking is very important to how much success you will have in quitting.
  • Know that it will take commitment and effort to quit smoking. Nearly all smokers have some feelings of nicotine withdrawal when they try to quit. Nicotine is addictive. Knowing this will help you deal with withdrawal symptoms that can occur, such as bad moods and really wanting to smoke. There are many ways smokers quit, including using nicotine replacement products (gum and patches) or FDA-approved, non-nicotine cessation medications. Take quitting one day at a time, even one minute at a time—whatever you need to succeed.
  • Get help if you want it. Smokers can receive free resources and assistance to help them quit by calling the 1-800-QUIT-NOW quitline (1-800-784-8669) Your health care providers are also a good source for help and support.

For resources on how to quit smoking, visit http://www.smokefree.gov/.

Local Resources for Detroit Residents

For contact information of partner organizations that might be able to provide help with environmental tobacco smoke hazards in your home, visit our Get Help page.


1United States Environmental Protection Agency: Health Effects of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke. (http://www.epa.gov/smokefre/healtheffects.html)
2United States Environmental Protection Agency: Secondhand Smoke Can Make Children Suffer Serious Health Risks. (http://www.epa.gov/smokefree/)
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Secondhand Smoke (SHS) Facts. (http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/)
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Smoking & Tobacco Use (http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/index.htm)