Nonsmokers who live or work in environments that are full of tobacco smoke inhale the same harmful chemicals (cigarette smoke contains thousands of different chemicals) and suffer the same adverse health consequences that smokers do.
About two-thirds of the smoke from a burning cigarette enters the environment. In a smoke filled room, a nonsmoker can inhale the equivalent of one cigarette every hour spent in the room. A room full of smokers quickly becomes polluted with tobacco smoke, which is why smoking is now banned in most public offices, many restaurants, and other locations. Compared to the smoke inhaled by a smoker, environmental tobacco smoke contains twice the tar and nicotine, five times more carbon monoxide, and 50 times more ammonia.
People who are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke can experience allergic reactions, eye irritation, headache, cough, nasal congestion, and asthma. Non-smoking spouses of smokers have a 30 percent higher risk of dying from cancer as compared to spouses of nonsmokers. The American Cancer Society estimates that 3000 nonsmokers die each year from lung cancer due to exposure to second-hand smoke.
Maternal cigarette smoking slows the development of the lungs in the fetus and impairs respiratory function later in life. Smoking during pregnancy also impairs the child's stature, cognitive development, and learning ability.
Passive cigarette smoke is especially harmful to children. They are more prone to bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic cough, missed school days, and hospital admissions. Approximately 300,000 children are at greater risk for bronchitis and pneumonia because of their exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. It is estimated that nearly one-third of children are exposed to cigarette smoke daily in their homes.