Secondhand Smoke and Aerosols

​Secondhand smoke is what smokers breathe out (and both smokers and non-smokers can breathe in)! It is also the smoke that comes from a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe. It is sometimes called environmental tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke contains many chemicals including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, ammonia and carbon monoxide. Secondhand smoke has more toxins or poisons than the smoke inhaled by the smoker. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks secondhand smoke as one of the most dangerous substances known to cause cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which 250 are known to be harmful and at least 50 known to cause cancer in humans. Source: WHO

There is no level of safe exposure to secondhand smoke. Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to get colds, allergies, asthma and ear infections. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke are at higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Each year in the United States, secondhand smoke causes:

  • Nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease among nonsmokers
  • More than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers 
  • More than 8,000 deaths from stroke  

Source: CDC

Aerosols are produced from the use of electronic smoking devices (ESDs). Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery operated devices designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol (commonly referred to as "vapor") that is inhaled by the user. ESDs are increasingly popular among youth and young adults due to appealing packaging and flavors such as "bubble gum" and "gummy bear." Data from the FDA's 2013-2014 Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study showed that among youth who have ever tried an e-cigarette, 81 percent used a flavored product the first time they tried one. The U.S has seen a sharp rise in e-cigarette use by youth in the U.S. There was a 900 percent increase among high school students from 2011 to 2015! Source: American Lung Association. In 2016, the definition of "tobacco product" was updated to include all ESDs. All tobacco products are now regulated by the FDA, and more research on the effects of these products is expected in the future.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself and Your Family From Secondhand Smoke and Aerosols?

Make your home smoke- and vape-free. There are currently no laws that prohibit tobacco use in a private residence. Ask family, friends, and baby sitters not to bring tobacco in your home. If needed, direct smokers to an open area outside where tobacco use is allowed.

Smoke-Free Personal Vehicles

As of June 9, 2016, in addition to cigarette smoking, use of electronic smoking devices is prohibited in a personal vehicle when a minor (under age 18) is present. Spread the word to family and friends to be sure they are aware of this updated law.

Smoke-Free Workplaces

In California, nearly all workplaces are smoke free. As of June 9, 2016, electronic smoking devices (ESDs) are prohibited anywhere cigarette smoking is prohibited under California State law. See the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) "Smoke-free Protections in the Workplace and Electronic Smoking Devices" guide for more information. If you encounter tobacco smoke at work, talk to your supervisor or call the County of Sacramento Tobacco Prevention ​& Education Program at (916) 875-5869.

Smoke-Free Public Housing

Effective February 3, 2017, a rule established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that all public housing be smoke-free. The new law does not include electronic smoking devices, but individual Public Housing Authorities can choose to include e-cigarettes in their smoke-free policies. See the HUD website for more information.

Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing

If you live in an apartment/condo/townhouse and have experienced trouble with drifting cigarette smoke, or ESD aerosols, please contact us at (916) 875-5869 so we can direct you to local resources that can help your complex go smoke-free! Or if you own an apartment/condo/townhouse complex, let us help you adopt a smoke-free policy for your units -- it will save you a lot of money in replacement costs when smokers move out and will cut down on tobacco complaints! See the list of Local Sacramento County Ordinances to see if your city has a smoke-free MUH policy.