9 of the Worst Diseases You Can Get from Secondhand Smoke | American Lung Association

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9 of the Worst Diseases You Can Get from Secondhand Smoke

You know smoking is bad for you. But did you know you're still at risk for some serious smoke-related health complications even if you don't light up? Smoking doesn't just affect smokers; it also has an impact on their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and even strangers who breathe the smoke-filled air.

Some states protect their citizens with comprehensive smokefree laws, prohibiting smoking in public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars. BUT, there are still 22 states that lack comprehensive smokefree laws, leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to secondhand smoke and the deadly diseases it causes.

Secondhand smoke causes these 9 cruel diseases*
*Cruel as in not-wishing-them-upon-your-enemy-cruel

  1. Lung cancer

    Lung cancer

    Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer in the United States, and secondhand smoke is a contributor. Each year more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths are caused by secondhand smoke.

  2. Heart disease

    Heart disease

    Breathing in smoke-filled air harms more than your lungs. Your ticker takes a hit, too. Secondhand smoke is responsible for close to 34,000 heart disease deaths in the United States annually – that is more than 20 times the number of people who lost their lives when the Titanic sank.

  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

    Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

    Secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS, which is the unexplained and unexpected death of an infant. It is the leading cause of death in otherwise healthy babies under age one. As if being a new parent isn’t scary enough. It is estimated that a quarter of all SIDS deaths are attributable to tobacco smoke.

  4. Stroke


    Take note if you live or work in one of the 22 states that has not enacted a comprehensive smokefree law. Being exposed to secondhand smoke is estimated to increase your risk of death and disability from stroke by 20 to 30 percent.

  5. Asthma attacks

    Asthma attacks

    Chronic, common and life-threatening—asthma is a serious disease, only made worse from exposure to secondhand smoke. More than 24 million Americans are living with asthma and the breathing difficulties that come with it. Add in smoke-filled air and you can bet asthma attacks will be knocking on your front door.

  6. Middle ear disease in kids

    Middle ear disease in kids

    Ear infections have a knack for starting in the middle of the night after the pharmacy has closed. Secondhand smoke sends 790,000 kids to the doctor every year for those miserable middle ear infections.

  7. Lower respiratory illness in infants and toddlers

    Lower respiratory illness in infants and toddlers

    Each year, secondhand smoke causes between 150,000 and 300,000 infants and toddlers to develop lower respiratory tract illnesses—e.g., bronchitis, those awful coughs that keep parents and baby up at night, and pneumonia.

  8. Low-birth-weight babies

    Low-birth-weight babies

    Secondhand smoke can impact a person before they take their first breath. Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at a greater risk of having low-birth-weight babies. Little ones born too small may have health complications such as birth defects and infections.

  9. Developing Lungs in Kids

    Developing Lungs in Kids

    Your lungs begin developing inside the womb, and continue to develop in childhood. Exposure to secondhand smoke stunts that growth and keeps them from reaching their full potential.

Source: The Health Consequences of Tobacco Use: 50 Years of Progress, page 3.

Did You Know?

  1. More than 1 in 4 high school students in the U.S. use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, according to the 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
  2. 7.4 percent of middle school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.
  3. A 2014 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that about 8 million lives have been saved through tobacco control efforts since 1964, including 800,000 lung cancer deaths between 1975 and 2000.
  4. Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing over 480,000 people per year.
  5. Secondhand smoke kills more than 41,000 people in the U.S. each year.
  6. 28 states and Washington D.C. have passed laws making almost all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars smokefree.
  7. New York has the highest cigarette tax in the country at $4.35 per pack.
  8. Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the country at 17 cents per pack.
  9. The average of all states plus the District of Columbia's cigarette taxes are $1.65 per pack.
  10. Eight states have taxes on other tobacco products equivalent to their state's cigarette taxes.
  11. Alaska and North Dakota are the only states that are funding their tobacco control programs at or above the CDC-recommended level (in Fiscal Year 2017).
  12. Four states increased their cigarette taxes in 2016.
  13. No state approved a comprehensive smokefree workplace law in 2016.
  14. 8 states – California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio – offer a comprehensive cessation benefit to tobacco users on Medicaid.
  15. Each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia provide tobacco quitlines, a phone number for quit smoking phone counseling. The average amount states invest in quitlines is $3.46 per smoker in the state.
  16. California and the District of Columbia passed legislation increasing their minimum sales ages for tobacco products to 21 in 2016.
  17. California, Hawaii and over 200 communities in 14 different states have passed Tobacco 21 laws.
  18. Nationwide, the Medicaid program spends more than $22 billion in healthcare costs for smoking-related diseases each year – more than 11 percent of total Medicaid spending.
  19. In 2009, the American Lung Association played a key role in the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products.
  20. The American Lung Association played a key role in airplanes becoming smokefree in the 1990s.
  21. 41 states and Washington D.C. spend less than half of what the CDC recommends on their state tobacco prevention programs.
  22. States spend less than two cents of every dollar they get from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes to fight tobacco use.
  23. Each day, close to 2,500 kids under 18 try their first cigarette and about 400 kids become new, regular smokers.
  24. Each day, more than 2,100 kids try their first cigar. On average, close to 90 kids try their first cigar every hour in the United States – equaling more than 780,000 every year.
  25. Smoking costs the U.S. economy over $332 billion in direct health care costs and lost productivity every year.
  26. The five largest cigarette companies spent over $23 million dollars per day marketing their products in 2014.
  27. Secondhand smoke causes $5.6 billion in lost productivity in the U.S. each year.
  28. Smoking rates are over twice as high for Medicaid recipients compared to those with private insurance.
  29. A 2013 study of California's tobacco prevention program shows that the state saved $55 in healthcare costs for every $1 invested from 1989 to 2008.
  30. A 2012 study of Massachusetts' comprehensive Medicaid quit smoking benefit found that Massachusetts saved $3 for every $1 spent helping smokers quit in just over a year.
  31. Missouri became the first state to eliminate all barriers to receiving tobacco cessation treatments for its Medicaid enrollees.
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