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State of Tobacco Control 2019

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. Close to 25 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 Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, Executive Summary, page 3.

    Did You Know?

    1. More than 31% of high school students in the U.S. use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
    2. 12.4% of middle school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
    3. From 2017 to 2019, high school e-cigarette use increased by 135% and middle school e-cigarette use increased by close to 212% according to data from CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey.
    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 virtually all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars smokefree.
    7. The District of Columbia has the highest cigarette tax in the country at $4.50 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 $1.81 per pack.
    10. One state – Connecticut – provides no state funding at all for tobacco prevention programs.
    11. Three states – Alaska, California and Maine – are funding their tobacco control programs close to CDC-recommended levels (in Fiscal Year 2020).
    12. Illinois was the only state to increase its cigarette tax by a significant amount in 2019.
    13. No state approved a comprehensive smokefree workplace law in 2019.
    14. Twelve states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon and South Carolina– 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 median amount states invest in quitlines is $2.14 per smoker in the state.
    16. Thirteen states passed legislation increasing its minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21 in 2019 prior to the federal Tobacco 21 law passing.
    17. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia approved Tobacco 21 laws prior to the federal Tobacco 21 law passing.
    18. Nationwide, the Medicaid program spends more than $39.6 billion in healthcare costs for smoking-related diseases each year – more than 15.2% 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. 43 states and the District of Columbia spend less than half of what the CDC recommends on their state tobacco prevention programs.
    22. States spend less than three cents of every dollar of the $27.3 billion they get from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes to fight tobacco use.
    23. Each day, close to 1,600 kids under 18 try their first cigarette and close to 200 kids become new, regular smokers.
    24. Each day, close to 1,400 kids try their first cigar. On average, more than 56 kids try their first cigar every hour in the United States – equaling about 493,000 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 2018.
    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 2017 study found that states which expanded Medicaid had a 36% increase in the number of tobacco cessation medication prescriptions relative to the states that did not expand Medicaid. This means more quit attempts with proven cessation treatments are being made. 
    31. A 2019 study found patients in Medicaid expansion states that had a cessation medication ordered, had a 65% higher change of quitting.
    32. In 2019, two states, Idaho and Maine implemented Medicaid expansion, providing more smokers with access to tobacco cessation treatments.
    33. Uninsured Americans smoke at a rate more than two times higher than people with private insurance.
    34. An estimated one-third of Americans living in public housing smoke.
    35. Persons with mental health conditions make up 22% of the population, but consume close to 36% of all cigarettes in the U.S.
    36. Native Americans and Alaska Natives have the highest commercial tobacco smoking rates among any racial/ethnic group.
    37. Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products in 2019.
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