• Secondhand Smoke


    Secondhand smoke, also called Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), is a combination of smoke in the air from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by a person smoking. ETS is the No. 1 source of indoor air pollution and poses a threat to the majority of Coloradans.

    Secondhand smoke is a toxic mix of more than 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which are known carcinogens. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency classified secondhand smoke as a "Group A" carcinogen in 1992, the same classification as asbestos.


    Some of the chemicals found in second hand smoke include:

    • Ammonia - cleaning supply
    • Carbon Monoxide - car exhaust fumes
    • Arsenic - rat poison
    • Acetone - nail polish remover
    • Formaldehyde - body tissue preservation
    • Hydrogen Cyanide - genocidal agent during World War II
    • Butane - cigarette lighter fluid


    Secondhand smoke consists of mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke.

    • Mainstream smoke is pulled through a filter when the smoker inhales. Nonsmokers are exposed to mainstream smoke when exhaled by the smoker.
    • Sidestream smoke comes from the burning end of the cigarette. Smokers inhale about 15 percent of the smoke from a cigarette. The rest goes into the air. Because the smoke is not filtered through a cigarette or other smoking device and is burned at a slower rate, the sidestream smoke is actually more toxic than mainstream smoke.


    Harmful to Your Health

    It is firmly established by rigorous scientific research that secondhand smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products creates substantial health risks for exposed nonsmokers, especially children. Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 53,000 deaths annually in the United States alone, including 3,000 lung cancer deaths, more than 2,000 SIDS deaths and more than 35,000 deaths from coronary heart disease.

    Secondhand smoke is dangerous for both adults and children and has been linked to lung cancer, breast cancer, sinus cancer, respiratory disease, bronchitis, middle ear infections, asthma, pneumonia, learning delays in children, SIDS and allergies. Only 13 other substances are considered as dangerous to human health.

    Secondhand Smoke Exposure

    Breathing clean air is something most people take for granted. But in Colorado, clean, smokefree air is not always a given. Even with the passage of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, banning smoking in public places, many Coloradoans are exposed to secondhand smoke unwittingly. Many are exposed to secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing complexes and children are exposed to toxic carcinogens from smoke-filled air in the home and in automobiles.

    • During an eight-hour shift, workers in a smoke-filled bar or restaurant can inhale up to two packs of cigarettes.
    • Smoke-filled rooms may have up to six times the air pollution as a busy highway
    • Smoking in a confined space (e.g., car) is 23 times more toxic than smoking in a house
    • It takes more than three hours to remove 95 percent of smoke from one cigarette from the room


    Protecting Yourself

    The best thing you can do to protect yourself and those you love is to make your home and automobile 100 percent smoke-free and avoid all public places and businesses where smoking is allowed. For a list of Colorado smoke-free restaurants and taverns, visit the Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution (GASP of Colorado) website. View exit disclaimer policy page for links to third-party websites.

    Also, ask others not to smoke around you or your children. You can also work with other community members to make your community smoke-free.

    If You Need Assistance 

    If you need help reducing secondhand smoke in your home or automobil, contact 303-275-7555. If you need help to stop smoking, contact the Colorado Quitline at 800-QUIT-NOW; or Donna Viverette, Jefferson County Public Health, 303-275-7555 or dviveret@jeffco.us.

    For more information about Jefferson County Citizens Against Unhealthy Smoke-Filled Environments View exit disclaimer policy page for links to third-party websites. (CAUSE), contact the coalition chair at 303-275-7555.

    Note: The following are not all-inclusive lists of websites or local, Denver metro area agencies with information about secondhand smoke, nor do they represent an endorsement of site content or the work of these organizations.


    Last Updated: 4-24-2013